The Teenage Brain: Under Construction

teen-age brain developmentThe brain; what an amazing computer. Divided into four lobes and two cortexes, each with specific job descriptions, is most undoubtedly the work of a divine Creator.

Anyone who has raised a teenager knows, even without going to medical school, that their brains are not yet completely developed. Some may wonder if their teen even has one. Having raised six children, I can relate. I had those thoughts too. Our six are within a six-year spread; three girls and three boys. Crazy! In fact, there were times that I understood why some mammals eat their young. But I promise, those of you still raising these budding adults will reach the time where you to will laugh, along with them, about those teen years. We have, and it’s just so wonderful and fun.

Believe it or not, science supports the desperate questions we ask our teens while flailing our arms in the air, “Why didn’t you think before you did that? Is there a brain in that head of yours?” Well, yes, there is a brain in there, but it’s not yet fully functioning. The teenage brain is still under construction. Smart people in white lab coats have discovered that the frontal lobe of the brain, the center that controls thinking, planning, organizing and problem solving, emotions, behavioral control, and personality, is not fully developed in the teenage children we love so very much. And in fact, it will not be fully so until those daughters are 25 and those sons are 27. (I don’t know if knowing this brings relief to you in some way or whether you are now slumped down in a chair exhausted at the thought of the years ahead until the structure between your teen’s ears is complete. It’s probably a blend of both.)

These semi-complete brains must try to make sense of and deal with the false messages being fed to them by a morally failing society and the media about what determines their self-worth, their sexuality, their gender (and it’s supposed new fluidity), marriage and family definitions, and on and on. And lest we forget, they are to sort through all this while being flooded with hormones sending their emotions all over the charts.

youthMeet Dr. Nancy Coppola [1], one of those smart people in the white lab coats. A breakout session I attended at the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City this past October focused on the impact the sexual and cultural revolutions have had on the family. In that session, Dr. Coppola was one of four experts who addressed us. Her remarks were titled “Brain Development and its Impact on Adolescent High-Risk Behaviors”. She showed charts and graphs galore. There were percentages and predictions; all very informative and interesting. But the thing she said that really caught my ear was this: “If we want to strengthen tomorrow’s families we must strengthen today’s youth. We need to be sure they understand that good choices protect them and their futures”.

Do you know what my very next thought was? I’m so grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and for the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet!


The preface in that inspired booklet is a ‘Message From the First Presidency’. In part it reads:

“OUR DEAR YOUNG MEN AND YOUNG WOMEN, we have great confidence in you. You are beloved sons and daughters of God and He is mindful of you. You have come to earth at a time of great opportunities and also of great challenges. The standards in this booklet will help you with the important choices you are making now and will yet make in the future. We promise that as you keep the covenants you have made and these standards, you will be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, your faith and testimony will grow stronger, and you will enjoy increasing happiness.” …. “Our Father in Heaven has placed great trust in you. He has a work for you to do. Seek His guidance in prayer, and counsel with your parents and leaders. The decisions you make now will set the course for much of what will follow during your mortal life and throughout eternity.

The heaven sent guidance that follows concerning Agency & Accountability, Dating, Dress & Appearance, Education, Entertainment & Media, Family, Friends, Physical Health, Sexual Purity, and nine other vitally important topics, is INVALUABLE to them, and to us. I wish I would have had a purse full of the wallet-sized pamphlets to pass out to that room full of people from around the world who were hoping to hear something to take with them to help their families and their communities.

We. Should. Be. Using. This. Wonderful. Resource. In. Our. Families! We should be using these guidelines in our own lives as an example to our children. Believe me, I heard others, many others, in that breakout session looking for, asking for, something like this. And all the while I sang in my heart, “I thank Thee, O God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days.” [2]

Chad and I loved our children’s teenage years. It’s true. We did. We had so much fun with them. It was hard at times to be sure, but we look back and smile and laugh more than shake our heads. We used the standards in ‘For the Strength of Youth’ as the scaffolding around our teens developing brains and testimonies. And it helped. It really helped. Just like the Brethren promised it would. It will help you and yours too.

The job description of parent includes construction foreman. So, put on those hard hats, strap on the tools belts, and actively participate in the brain building.


[1] – Dr. Nancy A. Coppola – CEO, Program Research, Inc.

[2] – LDS Hymnal, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”, William Fowler and Caroline Sheridan Norton

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Bethany Packard

Bethany Packard

Bethany Packard is absolutely in love with her wonderful husband, Chad. They live in the Dallas, TX area where they raised six amazing childrenand operate a business. They have 18 terrific grandchildren. At age 49, they were called to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a 'Senior' couple, and assigned to the Russia Moscow Mission. Leaving their family and business - before they were retired - took faith, but it also created the opportunity for God to perform many miracles in their lives. She loves music, interior design, cooking, sports, fall, and macaroni & cheese.
Bethany Packard

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