Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting Smarter about the Teen Journey

My current passionate interest is what I call the "teen journey." This is what a young person experiences from age 12 to 22, when the all-important pre-frontal lobes of the brain are developing. This is the part of the brain that performs the kind of thought that makes a person successful in the adult world.

At a time when they are developing adult bodies, their adult brains are slowly forming. It's a time of confusion, mistakes, pain and danger. Kids are questioning everything, and yet don't have the capacity for analytical thinking or self-management. They often turn to alcohol or drugs, which can do permanent brain damage during a delicate developmental period - not to mention get them in a ton of trouble.

Somehow, they need great parenting, teaching, coaching and luck. The first three supports are often not there, and luck is...uh, well, the journey is perilous. Some don't make it through. Many make it through with some damage. The hope is to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a foundation for critical thinking.

I've studied brain development for years. Now I'm addressing it in my work. This week I've started reading some of the popular books on the topic. In case you're interested...

Dr. Ron Clavier, Teen Brain, Teen Mind: What Parents Need to Know to Sur vive the Adolescent Years , 2nd Ed. (Toronto: Key Porter, 2009)

Sheryl Feinstein, Parenting the Teenage Brain: Understanding a Work in Progress (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2007)

Sheryl G. Feinstein, Secrets of the Teenage Brain: Research-Based Strategies for Reaching and Teaching Today’s Adolescents, 2nd Ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2009)

Barbara Strauch, The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries about the Teenage Brain Tell Us about Our Kids, 2nd Ed. (New York: Anchor, 2003)

David Walsh, Ph.D. Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen (New York: Free Press, 2004)

In case you're interested, I've found the last one the most informative and enjoyable.

Along the way, I've been fascinated by the fact that each person's teen journey story is dramatic and unique - what happened to them, what influenced them, how it turned out. I've started collecting these personal stories for a book on the topic - anonymous, of course.

Any volunteers?

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo purchased from


Sarcastic Bastard said...

I've repressed my entire teenage experience, Denny. Laugh.

Good luck collecting stories.

Bernice said...

It has been an interesting journey. Hubby and I have raised 4, that are now ages 18-29. The 1st one we were young and didn't do things even remotely right! She went thru some rough times, but has come out to be a great young woman and we are best friends. She did not come out completely unscathed and has her share of issues, many to do with choices she made in her late teens. We learned more with each subsequent child, and with #4, it has been interesting to help her grow into an adult. She is the baby, so part of me wants to hold on tightly. The other part of me realizes that it is natural for her to question our authority, to question our motives and reasons. As part of her growing up, she has to learn to think for herself. This understanding has helped a great deal, that they need to think for themsleves. We don't want them to be robots.
Very interesting process.
Good luck on your research!

Anonymous said...

! Your blog is quite interesting. I'm also working in the field of youth and young adult empowerment, beginning my practice in life coaching for a creative life path.

I was wondering if I could have permission to use the photograph on this post for a brochure? I can send you a finished copy when it is completed, if you'd like...


Asher Leigh Zaccagnini