The Teenage Brain

Inspired By  Daniel Siegel
8 mins

Quick Summary

This is a great watch for any parents or adolecence wanting to learn about the adolescent mind so we know what we can do to best support them or ourselves, especially with empathy and compassion.


ES - Emotional Spark SE - Social Engagement N - Novelty CE - Creative Exploration 

The adolescent brain is changing in very powerful ways. Instead of doing what the childhood brain does of accumulating more connections, somewhere around puberty the brain begins to do 2 things. 1 - Prune itself and 2 - Myelination - the way they communicate be more efficient, faster and more coordinated.  

This allows the brain to become more connected.

It’s not about raging hormones. It's a necessary period of development to allow the adolescent to get ready to leave home. To allow the adolescent to move towards what’s unfamiliar, uncertain, uncomfortable and even what can be unsafe. This natural drive to experience these things requires that nature change certain circuits in their brain. Some of those circuits are the reward circuits, which drops the baseline dopamine level and increases release levels. This can make adolescence feel a little out of sorts and bored with the status quo but also wanting to do something new. This is why adolescence make more riskier decisions and go well into the mid 20’s. Adolescence is a necessary period to change the brain. 

A myth to debunk is the raging hormones

It’s the remodelling of the brain that is changing. 

The relationship between emotional spark an social engagement and novelty and creative exploration in the brain in found. There are more emotional processes emerging from the body, the lower area’s of the brain including the brain stem and the limbic area. These emotional processes move up into the cortex where reasoning happens. You can feel moody, irritable but the upside is life is on fire and you’re filled with passion in this period. 

Pulling away from parents

Adolescence are driven to push away from their parents and to move toward their peers. There is safety in association and there is a survival instinct behind it. There can be a sense of urgency with this so as parents, we can understand with compassion to be there when our kids say they need a particular type of shoe or need to go to a party. It’s not always about caving into peer pressure. It’s from millions of years of evolution built into our DNA to be part of a friendship or group. 

The adolescent mind is built to challenge the status quo and to say ‘I’m not sure that’s a good way to be. I’m not sure that’s the way it has to be.’ The adolescence mind is pushing the boundaries. 

As a child, the first dozen years of life you’re soaking in the worlds knowledge and you accept that. The second dozen years of life is a time that you can feel very disoriented. You can feel disillusioned, that the parents you held up as Gods or Goddesses no longer are the heroes you thought they once where. You just see them as fallible human beings.

Pushing against the status quo for some kids can feel very unsettling. The upside is the incredible excitement of creating a whole new world. 

Adolescence innovative minds

Major innovations in art, music, science and technology have come from adolescent minds. Innovation emerges from adolescence. 

The reason our human species is so profoundly adaptive to all regions of this planet for good or for bad is because of the ingenuity, the courage and creativity of the adolescent mind. 

We need to learn about the adolescent mind so we can best support them. 

You look at all the studies through neuroplacitity, how we keep our brains young, you’ll find that by keeping passion in your life, keeping your social networks strong, trying new things and challenging your mind with creative exploration, you can keep your brain growing well and keeping yourself vital through out your life.

Compassion and empathy are the ways to support a life of meaning, equanimity and a sense of purpose and all sorts of great things then happen in our genes. This mindfulness improves our biochemistry on so many levels. 

Deeply being present as an adult and as an adolescence improves your experiences, allows you to make much better decisions and you can expand your identity in much more positive and fulfilling ways. 

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