Richard Friedman’s article in the New York Times (June 29, 2014) explains what is being learned from new brain studies. It informs us how to better deal with teenagers as well as how to better understand them. It may also help explain the behaviors of some of our associates in the workplace because of the long-term impact teenage experiences can have on us as adults.
The new findings include the fact that the teenager’s development of anxiety and fear grows faster than their ability to calm their fears. The fear part in the amygdala grows faster than the frontal cortex, which is designed to reason and manage fear. The other fast-growing part of the brain is the reward center, which can often lead to risky behaviors. When you package those realities with the fact that the main role for teenagers is to separate from their parents and become functioning adults, it’s no wonder so many parents live in fear of their children moving into their teenage years. What if we realized that the teenager is more afraid of this stage than the parents? How might we respond differently?
Often the failure to learn to deal with anxieties as a teenager follows people into adulthood and plays out in the workplace. We see studies that indicate that the average emotional age in the workplace is 13 years old. When you see “craziness” in the workplace … ask what fear might be behind the behavior?