Nature saves the best for last, as the brain goes through intensive changes during the second
decade of life. The teen’s brain is acquiring the ‘hardware’ it needs for functional adulthood.
But, the adolescent brain is not there yet. Adolescents need healthy and caring adults in their
lives to provide a supportive, enriched environment that optimizes this developmental window
of opportunity. Teachers and healthcare providers can do a number of things to help promote
a peaceful adolescence.
First, we can anticipate some chaos and conflict, emotional peaks and
valleys, risk-taking and rule-breaking as teens navigate the tremendous physical and
neurodevelopmental changes that will bring them to adulthood. We can also take an active
role in creating opportunities for teens to: practice making decisions; develop new skills; seek
healthy adventures and take positive risks; spend quality time with adult mentors; and adopt
healthy lifestyles that minimize stress and allow time for plenty of sleep. All of these strategies
promote resilience in youth. In turn, the resilience reduces the likelihood of unhealthy risk
behaviors and increases the potential of teens’ brains.