I was forwarded this article by one of our hardworking mentors (thanks, Anne!), and, while the title immediately grabs your attention (as well as the artwork!), this article, “Why Teenagers Act Crazy,” as featured in the June 28th New York Times, is an article that sheds some light on adolescent brain development. While frontal lobe development is largely talked about in the teenage brain (the frontal lobe is said to be fully developed by age 25-30), this article features less-talked-about areas and imagery that attribute adolescence to a world of anxiety, fear, instant reward and a startling list of ‘top 3’ causes of death.
As we think to ourselves, “I’ve been there” (some of us more recently than others 🙂 ), it’s important to remember how much of a shift the environmental and sociocultural factors have experienced, even over the past 5-10 years. Text messaging. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Social media has created a new echelon of popularity/acceptance factors that are yet another set of standards teenagers feel they have to measure up to or be a part of.
When a study on ‘fear extinction’ is done, the adolescents have a much more difficult time ‘unlearning’ the fear associations; this is an interesting point of note, as this article also doesn’t factor in any of the experiences our youth have been through that brought them into foster care. While they (and we!) don’t always make the best choices, their resilience can be celebrated. With summer in full swing, take a moment to reflect on what you know about your mentee, and try to think of a moment, maybe in a park, at dinner or during a movie, where you saw their ‘in the moment’ happiness. These are the memories that help us positively associate experiences with feeling content. As mentors, we can only hope to provide as many of these opportunities as possible. 🙂