Reducing Risk in Teens

Photo credit: aboutmodafinil.com The teenage years can be very challenging for parents, families, and adolescents. School and peer relationships can be stressful. Adolescence is naturally a time of exploration and individuation, which can be difficult for parents to navigate.

Common challenges families with teens encounter include:
  • Rule testing or breaking
  • Substance use/abuse
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Ineffective communication and stressful interactions

I work with teens and parents to:

  • Improve positive family communication
  • Establish and maintain clear and realistic expectations
  • Develop healthy coping strategies
  • Promote healthy decision-making

Facts about the developing adolescent brain:

  1. The adolescent brain is still developing, and is not fully developed until the early-20s.
  2. The part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) responsible for executive functions such as impulse control and planning ahead is not yet fully developed in teens.
  3. Brain studies have demonstrated that teens tend to respond more strongly to emotionally-loaded situations and images than do younger children or adults.
  4. During the teen years, vast changes in the production of reproductive and stress hormones affect the brain and behavior.
  5. Adolescent brain changes contribute to staying up late at night. This sleep deprivation can contribute to fatigue, attention problems, increased irritability, impulsive behavior, and depression.
  6. Alcohol affects the brain of a teen in different ways than the brain of an adult.
  7. Drug and alcohol use in adolescence may increase the risk of addiction for an individual.

In a certain sense, teens are “wired” to seek new and “exciting” situations; however, this can have a wide range of consequences. Novelty seeking can be positive: joining a new club, learning a new sport, or meeting a new friend. However, novelty seeking can also have negative consequences, from substance use, accidents, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, or other physical or emotional injury. In fact, statistics show that rates of death by injury are 6X higher for teens ages 15-19 than younger pre-teens (ages 10-14), likely related to the increase in risk-taking behaviors frequently seen during this time.

Read more about adolescent brain development at the National Institute of Mental Health website:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-still-under-construction/index.shtml