MindMatters in Minutes. Adolescent Development.

Adolescence. I don’t know about you, but mine was awesome. After spending several years as an adorable child with sponge-like learning capacity, I entered a phase of rapid growth where practically overnight I developed a great body, powerful sexual charisma, and excellent judgement.

However, not everyone experiences adolescence the same way as I did. For some of us it’s smooth sailing, for some it’s a workable muddle, for others it’s a painful mess. And for adults dealing with adolescent humans, things can be just as complicated.

Fortunately modern science has given some insight into the chemistry, biology and neurology of adolescence, and there’s more to it than just saying adolescents are erratic, or moody or better off being sent to an island and left to fight it out amongst themselves for a few years.

So in the next two minutes we’ll give you four insights into adolescent development, and then show you how MindMatters helps support all of them.

Insight one: Adolescence is SENSATIONAL

In the adolescent brain the limbic system—the emotional, sensory part of the brain—is all hopped up on hormones.

We tend to seek out intense, exciting experiences that give us strong emotional responses. This is great news for studying horror movies and hotties, but not so good for listening to Mr Tinkles during year 9 maths.

Insight two: Adolescence is SOCIAL

As we leave childhood we tend to stop playing with friends and look for affirmation outside the family and focus more on relationships, self-identity and the wider social order.

In particular we start observing and imitating people very closely, so the breadth of role models we are exposed to becomes very important.

Insight three: Adolescence is OUT OF CONTROL

While our emotional, sensual, limbic system is firing on all cylinders, our executive management system—the frontal lobes and pre-frontal cortex—is basically a work in progress for most of adolescence—if not longer.

This means we tend to need lots of external support around planning, decision-making and impulse inhibition. Some of us outsource that responsibility entirely.

Insight four: Adolescence is STRESSFUL

Relative to childhood, adolescence can be marked by a general downturn in mood. There are many possible reasons for this, but at the end of the day adolescence is a time of great change, and the cumulative impact of these changes can add up to a lot of stress for some young people.

So how can MindMatters help?

MindMatters addresses adolescent development issues throughout the framework. For instance…

…the strong desire for identity and social connection is addressed through the relationships, belonging and inclusion part of the framework.

Skills for coping with stresses and bouncing back from disruptive life events can be taught using resilience-building strategies.

In some parts we share ideas on how to involve parents and other significant adults in providing support for young people…

…while elsewhere we encourage schools to give students the opportunity, authority and support to drive their own mental health initiatives.

Applied as a whole school framework, MindMatters can help you respond to adolescent students’ emotional needs, build their social connections, celebrate their personal identity, support self-management and develop their resilience…

…so that ultimately every young Australian gets the best shot at becoming a great adult.