Building a relationship with your teenager may seem challenging at times. There, are, however neurobiological reasons why teens act the way they do. Understanding the premise of this behavior is paramount to building authentic and meaningful relationship with your teen.


~Try not to take it personally.

The prefrontal cortex is the mothership of the brain. It takes in data, analyzes the data and determines the actions to take. The teenager, however, has an immature prefrontal cortex, which results in heightened impulsivity, poor judgment, lack of foresight and ineffective problem solving. Keep in mind that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until at least age 25. Recognizing that this is a real developmental deficit for your teen can help minimize personalization of your teen’s behaviors.


~This is a very real feeling for your teen; be empathetic.

During adolescence, the emotional center of the brain, called the amygdala, is on overdrive. The amygdala allows us to survive because it is where fear and aggression are housed.

In fact, adults use the thinking part of the brain, the cortical area, to interpret facial expressions, whereas a teen uses the amygdala to interpret facial expressions. All perceptual data is being filtered through the amygdala so a teen cannot help but be moody and personalize his or her experiences. So, it follows, that their interpretations are often misguided.


~Be supportive and understanding; new neural connections are being made.

Myelination, brain shaping, and neuroplasticity are taking place at a rapid rate during adolescence. Your teen’s brain is physically changing and making new connections through a process called myelination. Myelination is an important phase of brain development, as behaviors that are no longer needed are being weeded out. The pathways that are used more often are being supported by a process called myelination, strengthening the connections in the brain.

For more about how to understand and work more effectively with teens, check out the book “What Works with Teens: A Professional’s Guide to Engaging Authentically with Adolescents to Achieve Lasting Change.”