Parent to parent, ever wonder what the heck goes on inside the teenage brain?
I know I do.
Here’s the thing though.
So many parents are focused on academic success that many overlook the importance of focusing on ways to fuel the teenage brain with other important ingredients that lead to long-term success.
You know all too well if you’re a teenage parent that they can be a bit moody (that’s an understatement) and, at times, not be the best at making “responsible decisions.”
Why is that?
According to Dr. Frances Jensen, the prefrontal cortex (the front part of your brain) isn’t fully developed.
When is the frontal lobe fully developed?
Not until your early to late 20’s, and this part of the brain is responsible for impulse control and risk-taking behavior.
And according to Dr. Adriana Galván, a Professor at the Department of Psychology and Brain Research Institute at UCLA:
- The Teenage Brain is constantly changing, even right now, this moment
- The Teenage Brain is very responsive to the environment
- The Teenage Brain gets excited for rewards, emotions and new experiences
What I find fascinating though, when listening to Dr. Adriana’s Ted Talk, is that taking risks and seeking out rewards are adaptive behaviors that will lead to making better decisions when our kids transition from these interesting childhood years to adulthood.
So you may be asking, since the teenage brain is still developing and these crazy swings in behavior are normal and healthy, what can we, as parents, actually do to fuel the teenage brain for future success?
Here are 6 Easy Ways to Fuel The Teenage Brain
Tip 1: Move that Body
First, if you don’t follow Jim Kwik, you must (and YES try this movement with the family at the dinner table this week, guaranteed to have fun).
Science has shown that physical exercise sharpens the brain, improves sleep (we’ll get to sleep in a moment), reduces brain fog (come on mom and/or dad we’ve all been there) and numerous other benefits.
The big bonus though, since so many parents are overly focused on academic success, is that those who exercise regularly tend to perform better on tests.
The reason for this, according to Harvard’s Heidi Godman, is that prefrontal cortex area of the brain, which also controls thinking and memory, tends to have greater volume in people who exercise compared to those that don’t.
Try to set a family goal of 10,000 or more steps a day each and celebrate each other’s successes each morning over breakfast. There are a ton of apps you can download on your cell to track steps.
Tip 2: Nighty Night….Get Sleep
Sleep is vital for fueling not only the teenage brain, but you also, Mom and Dad.
All of our brains are healing during sleep and recovering.
When we get less sleep than needed, it impacts our memory and our mood tremendously. When we’re sleep deprived, we’re moodier, stressed, more easily angered, more depressed and more anxious.
And guess what other area is impacted by a lack of sleep?
You got it, the prefrontal cortex, which means sleep deprivation can make that teenager more easily impacted by any perceived negative stimuli (YIKES).
One way to get kids to go to sleep earlier at night is give your home’s WiFi a bedtime.
That’s right, you can go into the settings and have it set to turn off at certain times during the day.
Let your kids know you’re doing this for health reasons. Studies are showing that WiFi radiation impacts the brain and by turning it off for just 30% of the day (that time we sleep) can have a positive impact on our health.
Tip 3: Take it or Leave it Menu – Eat Healthier
This is a big one Mom and Dad, so though you may not agree, listen-up.
If you want to have a huge impact on the teenage brain and yours, start eliminating sugar and processed foods from your diet.
Healthier eating helps with memory, sleep, and instills in your teenagers great lifetime habits that will add to their longevity.
Start filling up those plates with healthy, plant-based carbs (here’s some tasty recipes) and start eliminating unhealthy carbs.
Healthy sources of fat are known to optimize brain power and performance.
If you’re confused on how to get started, check out either Dr. Mark Hyman’s book Food: What the Heck should I Eat or get The Whole30: The 30 Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom and have the entire family do the 30-Day Challenge (you’ll love it).
Tip 4: Supplements
Regardless of how healthy your diet may be, you most likely aren’t getting the right daily nutrients you need from all your food, and thus supplements can assist with a healthier brain.
Definitely do your research here, as there’s a ton of conflicting information (even from The American Academy of Pediatrics).
According to Dr. Mark Hyman the following supplements are a great start:
- Complete Multivitamin
- Vitamin D3
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid
- Read further here
Tip 5: Kindness Matters & Community
Random acts of kindness are not only infectious and contagious, but acting kind also increases self-worth and raises self-confidence.
Social interaction is shown to improve memory strength for not only the old but for our young.
When we spend time with others it stimulates our brain health and increases our memory.
Encourage your teenagers to not only spend time with the family, but to engage with the community.
Tip 6: Reduce Stress & Increase Gratitude
Stress happens, it’s just a fact of life.
Remember our discussion on how the prefrontal cortex isn’t yet fully developed for the teenage brain, thus the appearance of “a stressful moment” can seem heightened?
Try to be understanding and teach your teenager stress-relieving tips.
Yoga, meditating, journaling, more sleep, healthier diet and talking are all ways to help reduce stress.
Another powerful way to calm anxiety is through doing the following 10X in the morning when you wake and the same before bed:
- Inhale for 5 Seconds
- Hold your Breath for 10-20 Seconds
- Exhale for 10 Seconds
Doing this 10 times doesn’t take too long and will greatly improve both your teen’s stress level and yours, Mom and Dad.
Lastly, encourage your children to be Grateful for what they have. The great part about encouraging gratitude is it decreases the opposite: entitlement.
Try to make it a practice of going around the dinner table and discussing what each of you are grateful for that day. Try to lead by example by showing gratitude for even the smallest of blessings
Consider getting your teenagers a Kindness Journal for them to privately take a few moments each day and journal.
This particular one is by Doctor of Psychology, Natasha Sharma and has the following benefits:
- Increased Self-Esteem
- Reduced Anxiety, Anger and Stress
- Greater Empathy & Compassion
- Increased Optimism and Positivity
Summary: 6 Ways to Fuel the Teenage Brain
To summarize, these are just six of many ways to fuel the teenage brain.
The one thing to remember is that both kids and teenagers learn by example, not by advice.
So, Mom and Dad, practice what we preach:
- Move that body and get exercise
- Have a great sleep schedule (it’ll make parenting easier)
- Eat healthier and reduce that sugar and processed food intake
- Take Supplements that you’re missing in your diet
- Kindness and Community Matter
- Reduce Stress and practice Gratitude