Brain talk for teens is food for thought

Local parents asked an expert for tips Thursday night on how to better guide their teens through the vulnerable years in which their brains are still developing.

The years during which a teen’s brain is developing are also the years when “teens need parents more than ever,” said Tina Givrad, who has a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering.

She spoke during a program sponsored by the CV Alliance, a Crescenta Valley-based organization that provides resources to parents and teens about substance abuse.

Recent research has shown that a brain accumulates many more cells when a child is 10 to 13 years old and that brains continue to develop in the frontal lobe through the mid-20s.

Teens need help evaluating risks and making decisions, Givrad said, because the developing frontal lobe is responsible for planning, organization and problem solving.

Much of the time, however, teens can be fueled by the portion of the brain that is tied to emotions and responsible for hormonal secretions.

In order to help teens make good decisions, Givrad suggested that parents engage them in problem solving, connect them to nature, involve them in volunteering opportunities, sign them up for music lessons or get them involved in activities where they show an interest.

She suggested parents find opportunities for their teens’ skills to grow stronger at something they enjoy rather than remaining preoccupied with activities that work against their future, such as drugs or alcohol, or other activities that can lead to trouble when teens cave in to peer pressure.

By teens having more exposure to life’s opportunities during their teenage years, their brains will create the connections that could lay the foundation for how they will approach their lives in the future, Givrad said, whether in their careers or otherwise.

Some mothers in attendance spoke of how the world they grew up in was far different than the digital world where their kids are coming of age, but Givrad assured them that “this is our responsibility to catch up with their world.”

Thursday’s discussion is one of a series of talks held jointly between the CV Alliance and Glendale Unified school district. Upcoming meetings will address bullying, teen suicide and underage drinking.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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