WNA Blog




Tue 19 Jan 2021

Raising The Teen Girl Brain

Health & Wellbeing
It’s no secret that teenagers’ brains work in strange ways, making them sometimes challenging to relate to.

As a parent, it can be easy to feel frustrated with your daughter during her teenage years; the two of you might not see eye to eye, her rebellious streak is starting to show, and she may be having occasional (or frequent!) emotional outbursts.

But don’t fret if these new traits are overwhelming, as there is a scientific explanation for it all!

Having a holistic understanding of how the teenage brain develops will help you empathise with your daughter and guide her through her teenage years.


So, let’s talk neuroscience… (and a shoutout to our resident Neuroscientist, Dr Diane Harner, for this incredible information).

The key structures which are prevalent in a teenager’s brain development are the Amygdala, the Pre-Frontal Cortex, Nucleus Accumbens and the Ventral Tegmental Areas. (Don’t be scared off by all the science lingo, we’ll walk you through what they mean and how they affect teenage development now:

  • The Nucleus Accumbens and the Ventral Tegmental Areas are responsible for producing dopamine and are the pleasure and motivation centres of the brain.
  • The Amygdala is known as the ‘smoke-detector’ of the brain and oversees the surveillance of threats. Highly active in the teenage years, when new experiences come into play, the ‘fight, flight or fright’ response is often engaged by the Amygdala in reaction to new triggers.
  • The Pre-Frontal Cortex regulates emotions and is situated in the frontal lobe of the brain. As we stated before, the brain matures from back to front which means that the pre-frontal cortex is not fully capable of regulating all emotional responses.

The first thing you need to know is that the brain matures from the back to the front and during the teenage years, the central parts of the brain are most active being developed. This means that the amygdala, all of her emotions are being triggered, is hard at work, but her pre-frontal cortex, the bit that helps her manage those emotions and calm down, is still figuring itself out.

Understanding these structures now means we can dive deeper into why it is important to allow our children to take on as many new experiences as possible.

Risk taking, sensation seeking, and curiosity are not only natural for a teenager, but also dramatically strengthen their synaptic pathways for the future – effectively connecting her amygdala to her pre-frontal cortex (Note: that’s a very simple explanation! There’s a LOT more going on….)

Allowing your daughter to experience as much as she can (both positive and negative) will help equip her for her adult life through providing her with the tools to respond to threats in appropriate manners and seek out experiences that bring her contentment based on where and when dopamine is released in her brain.

Encourage her to step outside her comfort zone and expand her horizons, she will only reap the benefits from it!

Her grand emotional outbursts are explained by her not yet matured Pre-Frontal Cortex. When your daughter is overwhelmed with her emotions, our number one tip is to simply let her just feel everything.

She may not know why or even what she is feeling and that is okay. Every person goes through the same stages of brain maturity – including you when you were her age – so instead of being frustrated with her, approach the situation with empathy and support and allow her to explore her emotions to the fullest extent.

We know that talk of scientific jargon is not everyone’s cup of tea, but even having a top-line understanding of where your daughter is at in terms of brain development is crucial in knowing how best to support her through these years.

Did you miss our last blog post?  Read about How well do you really know your daughter here.

In our next article we will look at unpacking four key fears which affect your daughter’s confidence and how you can help her grow into the most confident version of herself.

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