The adolescent years can be challenging for parents no matter how strong and loving the intentions may be. As your teen begins to experience puberty, however, keep in mind that this time is ultimately much more confusing for them as their bodies and minds grow, develop, and change.
While the physical development brought about by puberty is much more evident on the surface, your teen is also experiencing very significant, drastic changes that you won’t be able to see so clearly if you don’t understand where to look. These seemingly invisible changes occur in the makeup and chemistry of your teen’s brain, and have a very dramatic impact on emotional and mental health.
Understanding how your teen’s body and mind are changing during puberty will help you guide their growth more effectively and keep them mentally and emotionally strong.
Understand the physical changes your teen is experiencing as they go through puberty.
During puberty, many things will develop and change in the way that your teen’s body looks and functions. During this vital phase of human development, teens begin the process of reaching full physical maturation, and will begin to notice their bodies changing as they grow.
This can be a confusing time for teens as their bodies change, so it is important as a parent to understand what changes are happening, and speak honestly and openly with your teen about them. Be sure to emphasize that this is a perfectly normal and natural process, and help your teen understand they should feel no shame in their changing body.
Additionally, during puberty your teen’s sleep cycle will most likely change as part of their growth. According to MentalHelp.net, this is due to a shift in the circadian rhythm that drives sleep patterns during puberty. This shift causes teens to feel highly alert in the nighttime hours, which can lead to lost sleep and daytime irritability. While it is important that your teen gets adequate rest, knowing that a physical change happening to their body is causing their late nights will help you be more patient and supportive.
Know about the drastic changes that occur in the adolescent brain during puberty.
During puberty, teenagers experience the largest brain growth spurt since infancy. This extreme season of change in your teen’s brain is what will cause your teen to begin acting with more independence, but it will also be responsible for irrational emotional periods as well.
According to Live Science, the adolescent brain changes in these key ways during puberty:
- The teen brain becomes more connective and processes more information, more quickly due to growing brain matter.
- Puberty triggers intense changes to the limbic system, which causes teens to act on emotions before logic.
- Abstract thought capabilities develop during puberty, and teens begin to gain a view of themselves as perceived by others.
- Development in the prefrontal cortex and limbic systems together make risk taking more prevalent during puberty.
- Hormonal changes and surges in the brain during puberty cause teens to feel as though they are at the center of all the attention surrounding them.
Prepare for any changes in your teen’s emotions, and know what is normal and what should cause you concern.
Due to the changes in their brains and bodies during puberty, teens are much more likely to take risks and experience emotional and mental instability. While many behaviors are a normal part of the maturation of adolescence, it is important to understand the changes your teen is undergoing, and also be aware of what signals might point to potential issues in your teen’s mental or emotional health.
If your teen has been suffering consistent bouts of emotional turmoil, depression, or has lost interest in family, school, or friends, then speaking with a trained teen counselor can help you sort through what behaviors are a natural result of puberty, and which may point to the development of mental health issues.