Teen Hormones and the Brain

Raging hormones have been the scapegoat for the problems of teens for years. The big shift in hormones causes mood swings, angry outburst and the “urge to merge.” However, there is more to the story. It is not just hormones causing teen temper tantrums or impulsive behavior.
The teen brain is still growing. The rational decision making center of the brain, the cerebral cortex, takes about 25 or more years to form. Not having access to a fully functioning decision making area of the brain, teens rely on the limbic system. The limbic system is the survival, reactive, emotional part of the brain. Add an immature brain and a brain bathed in reproductive hormones, and viola! You have today’s moody, frustrated teen. You also have frustrated parents who don’t know what to do with their teen daughter!
The first thing I teach parents is to grow a thicker skin. Don’t take your daughter’s outbursts personally. Walk away from the temptation to fight when your daughter is upset. She won’t be able to hear you when she’s agitated. Wait until she’s cooled off. Make sure you are calm when you do talk to her.
The second thing to help your turbulent teen is to learn to “detective listening” skills. Your daughter needs guidance, but she won’t listen to a lecture. Parents who apply detective listening skills help their daughters learn how to ride the tide of hormones and deal with a growing brain. Detective listeners don’t make assumptions. They don’t interrupt, steal the conversation, make others wrong, give unasked for advice, or pretend to listen when they aren’t. They open their ears and their hearts. They understand that each of us has our own truth and they help the speaker talk honestly to discover their own truth.
Compassion and listening skills are the biggest tools in any parent’s tool belt. Unfortunately, they are not used often enough because teens trigger the limbic system in their parents brain to fire up! Parents become reactive and can no longer be fully present with a logical, loving heart and mind. It takes practice to stay calm while your teen is out of control. But it’s worth the effort.