How The Teenage Brain Develops – The 5 Stages Every Parent Should Know

Do you have a teenage daughter or son? Are they approaching the period of adolescence? Do you worry about what to expect during this challenging period?

Adolescence is a transitional period from childhood to adulthood and it’s quite challenging due to being full of changes, both in the person’s body and mind.

Anticipation and anxiety associated with it are common among children and their families because of the numerous cognitive, physical, social, emotional and sexual changes that will take place.

The problem may occur when parents aren’t well prepared and fully aware of the stages of adolescence and what each of them brings. Consequently, the child’s healthy development and the proper preparation for adulthood are impeded.

Often times, many parents become too focused solely on the physical changes in the child, i.e. how much they weigh or how tall they are, forgetting to focus on what’s happening in those little head of theirs.

Developmental psychologists agree that parents with a better understanding of the growth phases can be of greater aid to their children in overcoming the obstacles.

Indeed, many parents underestimate the significant brain growth children experience on a yearly basis and how much these changes impact their attitude, emphasizes Jenna Gallegos, technical content specialist with a degree from University of California Davis who published stories for The Washington Post.

The challenge for parents is to learn more about these vital phases and how they will affect your teens. When we put in more effort to understand how our children think, we can better both their and our experience.

Knowing how much youngsters need our support at this critical period, it can be very productive to learn more about the 5 different stages they’re going through in adolescence.

Help your teen decipher the mysteries of growing up and witness a profound wonder of transformation.

Understanding Your Teen’s Brain – The 5 Stages of Teenage Brain Development


1. Who Likes Me?’ Stage (11-12)

According to Dr. Michele Anthony who graduated with honors from Brown University and has an MA in Child Studies and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and is also a certified teacher, in this age phase, our children are already starting to think about abstract concepts and are able to think logically.

Expect from your child to be capable of arranging without trial and error and expressing a more methodical and strategic approach to obstacles they may be encountering.

As they grow, their adult-like thinking will become better. But, their egocentrism will still persevere – pre-high schoolers often believe that their experiences and feelings are one-of-a-kind and known only to them and by them.

As they move on from this stage, they will begin realizing that others also have their own views and may become too occupied with how others perceive them.

Most of these transformations are believed to be a result of the growth happening in the frontal lobe of the brain.

This part controls our capacity to think, plan, organize, solve problems, and complete tasks.

At this period, your child will experience shifts in how their brain processes reward and pleasure, which will make the feelings associated with each much stronger than before.

Parents should be cautious because this change may cause them to indulge in sensation-seeking attitudes that may be risky.


2.  ‘Who am I?’ Stage (12-14)

At this phase in their lives, young people are almost teens and thus, they’re in a state of inner conflict.

They have a strong need to become more independent, yet also want to be a part of a friendship group. They will also start showing an urge to discover and identify who they are.

According to Amy Morin, psychotherapist, university lecturer, and bestselling author, in terms of cognitive development, even though the brain of a 12-year-old has stopped increasing in size, it has a lot more development left to do.

Even though their logic, abstract thinking, and problem-solving are enhancing, their prefrontal cortex that manages the organizational and impulse control skills is still young.

Frequently, at this age, they will start to explore morality so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they tell you they want to adopt a new lifestyle or learn more about a different religion.

A child at this age will also have a stronger command of language and better communication skills. They’ll understand more than just literal interpretations and you may also get your first dose of sarcasm.

In the stage where they try and learn more about themselves, who they are, what they like and dislike, you may notice them spending more of their free time on sports, video games, and outings with friends.

To ensure they’re still developing healthy and not overstepping the boundaries in your household, maintain an active communication, have limits on screen times, and keep up with the curfews.

What’s more, try to keep in touch with their emotional health and learn more about how to recognize signs of anxiety or depression that may surface out at this period.


3.  ‘Why Can’t I?’ Stage (14-15)