Most people know that a teenager’s brain is still developing, but Fox says it’s particularly important for parents to understand the order of events when it comes to brain development during these years—specifically the fact that the brain develops from back to front.
What does that mean, exactly? “Because the brain develops from back to front, the prefrontal cortex is the last area of the brain to fully mature—and that’s the region responsible for complex cognition, which includes reasoning, decision-making and impulse control,” explains Fox. So if you ever feel incredulous about something exceptionally stupid your teen did, the expert recommends that you hold back a bit and try to remember that, well, they kinda can’t help it.
The good news is you can help—namely by using a technique Fox refers to as “previewing,” which essentially involves talking out potential scenarios and their consequences with your teen before the sh*t hits the fan. Example: “I know you’re familiar with taking the subway by yourself, but I’m still going to remind you that it’s very different to ride the train at night and if (insert situation) were to happen, you should do X, Y and Z.” Will your teen roll their eyes the entire time you’re talking? Likely. Still, the expert says that this practice does, in fact, plant a seed that will help a teen’s underdeveloped prefrontal cortex make the right call in the heat of the moment. “It’s the same reason fire drills are done at school,” she explains.