How do you think?

Have you ever wondered if you were adopted simply because you could not be your parent’s child? Did you find yourself playing Will Smith’s rap, “Parents Just Don’t Understand” continuously? Then you were a teenager at one point in your life. The teenage years are years for change, adaptation, and personality searches. With growth, there is a problem in who has control of the teenager’s life and who wants control. Teenagers want to pick out their own clothes and go to bed at the time they wish to go to bed. Parents believe that although their teenagers are developing, they still know what is best for their child. This causes friction between the two parties and results in arguments. Growing up, I constantly questioned my parent’s authority. They would in turn question my logic and intelligence. Why can’t parents understand the actions performed by teenagers? The answer is simple, teenagers simply think different than adults because they use a different part of their brain to process information.

The teenage brain is still maturing into an “adult” brain. A teenager’s level of emotion is heightened due to the changing brain circuits that associate with emotional stability. An adult, who has a more developed brain, will not understand why some situations affect teenagers so deeply. A teenager may see a middle school or high school break up as devastating because their life may have circled around that relationship. The teenage brain may be confused and may not completely process that the relationship is juvenile and another relationship will occur in due time. This lack in reasoning causes the teenager to react poorly to the situation. However, an adult, who can reason, will think that the teenager is being melodramatic. A consistent subject that I did not agree with my parents on as a teen was the clothes I wore. I knew as a teenager, I could not go to the store and buy my own clothes because I could not drive nor did I have any money. Therefore, I constantly relied on my mother to buy my clothes and would have to make outfits from her selections. My mother never understood that the clothes a student wears determines their role in the popularity hierarchy. However, as a teenager being well-liked was all I focused on. I was always extremely upset when students would make fun of me for not being “fashionable.” I could not process at that time that a person’s worth is not based on how well they are liked. Looking back, my entire teenage years were full of emotional rollercoasters that were largely based on other people’s opinion about me.

Teenagers also use a different area of their brain to process information than adults do. A study showed that teens used their amygdala to process facial expressions instead of their frontal cortex like adults. This study shows that teens react on instinct instead of clearly thinking about things. As a teenager, I always felt as if I could always tell what people were actually feeling without an explicit explanation from the person. If one of my friends came to school smiling but their attitude was not as the same, I would be able to see through the facade. As I grew older that natural instinct of telling what a person feels like slowly declined in strength. Instead of “jumping to a conclusion,” I started to refer to external attributions about their circumstances and emotions. By the time I attended college, I could no longer read a person’s face as well anymore. If a person looked sad, that was all I saw; I could not determine if they were angry, shocked, or depressed. It seems as if the older a person is, the less they are in touch with their instincts.

The more our brains develop into adulthood, the more disconnected we are to our teenage years. Our brain as adults, unlike our teenage brains, are filled with so many rules about how and what to think, that we start to forget what it was like as a teenager. I look at teenagers now and I continuously find myself asking, “why would they do that?” As an adult, I could never imagine myself being that foolish or innocent as a teenager. It is as if I was never a teenager but has always put in effort when processing a situation. In reality, people who were adults when I was a teenager probably asked the same thing about my peers and me. I can’t remember when I stopped “thinking” or “acting” like a teenager. Do you?

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