Though the brain may be done growing in size once your child reaches their teen years, it does not finish developing and maturing until the mid to late 20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. This area is responsible for skills like planning, prioritising, and controlling impulses.
Once your teenager is in secondary school, they are expected to absorb enormous amounts of information, work more independently and their education focus is all about working towards their GCSEs and A-levels.
Our teenagers’ brains are developing so quickly at this time and becoming more efficient and effective….they begin to work in a more targeted way. This can be a time of great opportunity, but distractions are rife and it’s easy to go ‘off track’ with social media, peer pressure and how they feel about themselves.
So, how can we support them?
Multi-tasking is a myth
Yes, you read that right, multi-tasking is a myth – for adults as well as teenagers! If we try to focus on more than one activity, we will get distracted. FACT!
Human beings work at their best when we focus on one thing at a time. Furthermore, we work even better if we break tasks down into 25-30 minute ‘sessions’ with short breaks in between. This is known to boost dopamine, which is an important chemical messenger involved in reward, motivation, memory, attention and even regulating body movements.
If your child is doing homework, or revising, don’t expect them to sit for hours at a time, they will not achieve more by doing this. Instead encourage them to take breaks, listen to a favourite song, get up from their desks and get a drink or snack – they will find their productivity increases by working this way.
Make sure your teen balances schoolwork with fun
Exclusive focus on schoolwork reduces efficiency and can be demotivating for your teenager. A friend of mine has a 15 year old son who is working towards his mock GCSE’s. He is incredibly studious but she became concerned he was working ‘too much.’ This may sound crazy to those of you reading this who wish your teen would revise more, but it is about balance. She encouraged him to play sports, go to the gym and meet up with his girlfriend – all things that make him happy and he found he was working more efficiently when it came to revision time.
This is because positive activities which your teen boost serotonin.
Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness. It is used to transmit messages between nerve cells, it is thought to be active in constricting smooth muscles, and it contributes to wellbeing and happiness, among other things. Serotonin is thought to play a role in appetite, the emotions, and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions and it appears to play a key role in maintaining mood balance.
How can you help your teen to find this balance?
First of all, communication is key! Explain to them why ‘all work and no play’ is not good for them and tell them about dopamine and serotonin.
Secondly, help them to organise their schoolwork and their social lives – they still need a bit of guidance at this age.
Thirdly, it is Important that we enable our teens to want to try new things and embrace not getting things right every time. It’s natural for parents to want their children to be happy and get things right BUT we must allow them to make mistakes so they can grow. This is known as a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. So guide them but don’t make all of the decisions – it’s an important time for them to learn about themselves.
Finally, essential oils can play a really positive role in helping your teen find balance and focus. For example, lemon essential oil is known as the oil of focus, it is a ‘mood lifter’ and helps us to wake up, feel good and feel energised.
When your teen is studying, encourage the use of an essential oil such as lemon. It can create positive associations with regular use because the brain will associate the oil with what they are learning. So for example if your teen is revising for Geography, use lemon oil, perhaps orange for History – you get the idea. This is called ‘aromatic anchoring’ and is covered in more detail in my upcoming “Tools for Teens – Understanding the Teenage Brain” online course
Finding the right essential oil for your teen can take some time, and a bit of trial and error. I can help with this process and offer samples and advice to you.
If you’d like to find out more about teenage confidence and focus please click here to find out more about my upcoming “Tools for Teens – Understanding the Teenage Brain” online course where this will be explored in more depth, along with sleep, hormones and mood.