• Cracking the Code on the Teen Brain | Malin Gutestam | Episode 188

  • teen brain

    Our kids are often unfocused, stressed, things just aren’t sticking in their brains, or they have trouble balancing school, home and other activities. It’s easy to fall back on thinking they don’t care, they’re being lazy or they’re unorganized. But what if they aren’t? What if they just need to understand how their brain works and how to get it to do what they want to do? That’s what Malin Gutestam discusses with Mighty Parenting Podcast host Sandy Fowler. She cracks the code on the teenage brain and shows us tips, tricks, and ways to help our teens do better all day long.

    Listen to the Mighty Parenting podcast on your favorite podcast app:

    Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Player FM | iheartradio | Castbox | Podchaser | Overcast

    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    Multi-tasking is detrimental to learning. It takes kids 4 times longer to do homework when they multi-task.

    High Points From Our Conversation on Cracking the Code on the Teen Brain:

    Quote on the teen brain

    Much of the neural development taking place in the teen brain is very different from what we see in younger kids and adults.

    Connections between neurons are overproduced in a teen brain; much of the teen years are thus spent pruning unused connections and strengthening used connections.

    The dopamine system also undergoes changes, meaning positive emotions are very intensely felt, which may lead to an increase in reward-seeking behavior.

    Remember that your teen can’t control how strongly they feel about something, and they may not know how to deal with such intense emotions; if this leads to poor or risk-seeking behavior, help them find other healthy safe outlets for it (do not encourage them to suppress it).

    Reward-seeking isn’t just physical; teens will seek social rewards too. They’ll look for acknowledgement, praise and affirmation from peers, teachers and friends, not just their parents. 

    Teen years are critical neurodevelopment years; encourage your teen to broaden their education and try as many different things as they’re interested in. 

    Trying things also means failing. Let your teen know that learning how to fail is a part of life, and failing at an activity or a skill does not mean they’re a failure as a person.

    Things we think of as everyday or not a big deal are big deals to our teens. They’re going to be more sensitive to how people see them and what others think and say about them; they’re going to be focused on themselves and their actions. While they’re still developing, these things take up more space in their brains and thought processes (it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re narcissistic or deliberately being selfish).

    Sleep patterns also change during the teen years. A teen brain produces more melatonin at night and for 12-hour periods; this production fluctuates during the teen years and is significantly affected by screens, specifically the blue light produced by most electronic devices.

    If your teen doesn’t want to or doesn’t know how to slow down or stop at the end of the day, help them create a routine for their “work” times and their “off” times. Identify times to start studying, times to take a five- or ten-minute break, times to eat a snack, and times to stop studying (after a certain point your brain no longer absorbs the information—yes, there is such a thing as too much studying).

    Work out a post-work/studying/evening routine: put the textbooks away, dim the lights, reduce the screen time/blue light exposure. This all encourages the brain to produce melatonin on schedule and in turn, help your teen get a full 8+ hours night’s sleep. 

    In this digital age, sleep and reducing screen time is more important than ever. Blue light produced by electronic devices inhibits normal melatonin production and reduces our ability to sleep normally and follow our circadian rhythms. If devices in the evening are necessary for homework or projects, find a blue light filter (many current cell phones come with that feature) or an app like Twilight that filters out blue light and produces red light to reduce eyestrain. 

    Multi-tasking is lauded as a valuable ability to get more done in a set time period. However, with teen brains, this is actually detrimental to their focus and information retention. The teen brain has an incredible capacity for info retention, which makes learning much easier; however, multi-tasking reduces that capacity and requires teens to work longer to absorb the same amount of information. 

    Multi-tasking makes it harder for a teen brain to store information in long-term memory; if they multi-task while doing homework (even if it’s something as simple as texting with a friend) it can take them up to four times longer to get the homework done than it would if they focused only on the homework.

    When multi-tasking, the brain has to switch connections more frequently; each time you switch between tasks, your brain has to switch too, and that switch loses some of the information your brain was working on retaining.

    Encourage your teen to focus only on homework when doing homework. They’ll get it done faster and retain more information for longer periods of time.

    If your teen is having trouble focusing on their homework, help them come up with a system to prioritize. Grade tasks on length or complexity or importance, then make a to-do list or a goal list. For example, do one complex assignment, then a simple one after that.


    Parenting Tips: Ending Procrastination Once And For All | Leslie Josel | Episode 51

    A Sneak Peek Inside The Teenage Mind | Valerie Grison-Alsop and Blanche Stora |  Episode 109

    Decoding Boys – Understanding Boys’ Silence, Anger And Other Signals | Cara Natterson MD | Episode 118

    Digital Wellness for Teens and Families | Kai Hersher | Episode 154

    Our Guest Malin Gutestam:

    Malin Gutestam discusses the teen brain

    Malin Gutestam is an Upper Secondary School teacher, educator, speaker and author. Her great interest in learning strategies and the brain has led her to a Post Graduate certificate in the Neuroscience of Leadership as well as a Brain Based Coaching Certificate. 

    She has created a course, Young Brains, run as a pilot study, with the goal of teaching teens about the science behind the changes that occur within the teenage brain and equip them with strategies and tools to apply this knowledge in their daily lives. The goal was to minimize unnecessary stress and improve mental wellbeing, thereby increasing the motivation for learning. 

    In 2016, Malin Gutestam was awarded the Helge Prize, the largest teaching prize in Sweden which in Malin´s case led to the publication of the book Brain Tools for Teens.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit www.braintoolsforteens.com 

    Our Sponsor:

    Sandy Fowler: Are you stressed but don’t have time to deal with it? I get it. Grab my complimentary lesson at http://sandyfowler.com/notime to find out how to start feeling better today.