Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Those crazy kids

Do you have a teenager in your house whose behavior drives you batty? Who acts impulsively, doesn’t seem to consider what might happen as a result of his/her behavior, can’t act like the adult he/she is supposedly growing into?

Well, there’s a reason for that. It’s called the frontal cortex. It’s the part of the brain that controls reasoning and the ability to think before acting. And frankly, it isn’t fully developed in teenagers.

The amygdala, on the other hand — the part of the brain responsible for instinctive reactions such as fear and aggression — develops quite early. So, take a brain primed to act on instincts, but not yet ready to fully think through consequences, and the stage is set for behavior that can make a parent’s head spin.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has been promoting a series of “facts for families” information sheets to help parents better understand why their kids do what they do. Having a handle on how the typical teen brain develops can give parents a better sense of what’s going on in their child’s mind.

It can still be tricky to sift through what’s normal and what’s abnormal when your child is behaving impulsively or irrationally. But reading this kind of fact sheet can give you some good insights. Here’s blurb from the teen brain fact sheet:

“Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

– act on impulse

– misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions

– get into accidents of all kinds

– get involved in fights

– engage in dangerous or risky behavior.”

The fact that a teen’s frontal cortex hasn’t fully formed doesn’t mean that “young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions.”

The full fact sheet is available online at: