by: Susan Hopkins, Ed.D., Executive Director and Barry Davidson, Managing Director
We look at adolescents and often our very selective memory seems to kick in with some vague conception that young people today have no similarity to the young people we once were. That’s just not so—think back to when you were a youth and “knew it all.”
Young people are gloriously complex, just like we once were, before we put up boundaries around what we were supposed to be and do. Evolutionary biology can explain everything from why teenagers want to sleep in every morning to why they “need” to separate from us in increasingly evident ways. They love us, even if they don’t say so, or act in opposing ways. It’s never personal—typical “teenage” behaviour is often an emotional response, part of their developing brain chemisty.
Whether we like it or not, the “thinking ahead” areas of teenage brains are still under construction. That includes the prefrontal cortex areas responsible for decision making, delaying gratification, switching and sustaining attention. All of those areas we parents and teachers often try to appeal to are still in development and sometimes not accepting input. The emotional centre of the brain—the limbic system—is often running the show in youth, prioritizing things like risk–taking and social standing over long term consequences.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the great work being undertaken in their brains, youth are capable of great passion and have a wonderful energy for positive action. This summer, we want to celebrate the amazing youth making a difference across our province every day, taking action on issues that matter to them and marking their place in the world. Alberta’s youth inspire us every day. EVERY day.
So remember if you ever feel frustrated or confused about teenage behaviour or activities, it is not rhetoric when we say that the youth of today ARE the leaders of tomorrow. They are using their passion and taking risks to make their world a better place. Join the conversation this month by sharing stories and advice to promote youth action and celebrate successes! #CaringYouth
This article appeared in our August 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!