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Teens are faced with a myriad of unique challenges in today’s world. Stressors surrounding school, home, peer relationship and thoughts/worries about the future can become overwhelming for even the most well-adjusted teen. Teens are caught in a type of life stage limbo that is somewhere between the relative safety of childhood and the overwhelm of life choices that come with adulthood. This life stage can be one of the most exciting stages and the one with the biggest challenges.
In preparation for adulthood, a teen’s brain is under complete reconstruction. It’s not simply a bigger child’s brain or a less developed adult brain, it is a completely different animal altogether. If one imagines the brain as a home that is under reconstruction, different rooms might be shut down from time to time while others are being built and reconfigured. Plumbing and electricity may be turned off indifferent parts of the house while this occurs.
Emotional centers of the brain are growing at the speed of light while areas related to planning and judgement lag behind for several years. As children move into the teen years, social relationships outside of the home become increasingly important in preparation for more mature relationships into adulthood. Feelings of intimacy and sexuality are awakened. Risk/reward centers of the brain underestimate risky behavior while overestimating potential reward. In an effort to begin maturing toward a more independent life, the teen brain begins to push back against parental authority in favor of making its own decisions. Depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and low self-esteem are just some of the challenges inherent during this stage of life.
All of the changes made are for the ultimate purpose of readying an adolescent for the eventuality of living and thriving on his/her own, but the process can be crazy-making for the teen and for the parents and others who love them. Without proper direction and understanding these changes can end disastrously. Without proper navigation of the parent-teen relationship, damage can be done to arguably one of the most important relationships that parent and child will ever have.
Add to this that there has never in all of history been such a deluge of information coming at our teens from all directions. News, social media, tragedy, and comparisons come at them from everywhere. While this flood of material offers more ways to connect and learn than ever before, it also brings several challenges including:
- A sense of interpersonal disconnect and loneliness.
- Anxiety at the sheer amount of information to be processed and with an inability to emotionally process much of that information.
- Depression and low self-esteem related to inevitable comparisons made.
- Material that is far more advanced and mature than the teen brain is ready for.
- Addiction and other damage related to technology use.
Given this, some moodiness, anxiety and irritability is normal for teens. However, when anxiety begins to spiral out of control causing challenges with school work, interpersonal relationships, or self-esteem, it may be time to get some help.
Depression, anxiety, addictions, and self-esteem issues are just a few of the challenges that are at an all time high for our teens. Worse, teens challenged with these issues that don’t get the help they need are at a much higher risk for much more serious and in-depth psychopathology in adulthood as distorted assumptions and rigid thinking processes take a greater hold over time.
If you or your teen could use some help with navigating challenges surrounding the teen years, call me at 925-322-1681 to see how I can help.