They Are Not Myelinated Yet! (or, why your teenager is whacky)

Why Your Teenager Is Whacky

San Fernando Valley chiropractor, Dr. Andrea Mills, shares the neuroanatomy of teens that drives parents nuts

My kids and step-kids range in age from 10 to 16. You know what they say about the teen years, right? I’ve found all the stories and cliches to be mostly true.

While lots of parents bemoan the teen years, I find I’m actually enjoying them quite a bit. Watching the kids learn their place in the world and how to navigate it is fascinating! I think growing up today is harder than when I was a kid. Social media can be difficult, and managing friends and budding romantic interests is hard enough when you are a teen without all the added pressures of looking good in front of the whole world.

There is one thing that I always remember when my kids are acting crazy, and it helps me put it all in perspective.

They aren’t actually myelinated yet. They can’t help how they think.

For those of you who aren’t up on your neuro-anatomy, myelin is the insulating covering over nerves that help transmit messages from the brain faster. While much of the myelin sheath develops in early life, the process is not actually complete until early adulthood.

So while your kids are making decisions that can impact the rest of their lives, they’re doing it with neuro-anatomy that does not yet work like an adult’s. They don’t process as fast as we do, and it is much harder for them to see consequences to actions.

So when your kid posts something stupid on social media, or forgets to turn in their homework, or wants to turn their shirt inside out rather than wash it, stop and breathe before you lose it. And remember, they’re working with a brain that truly isn’t fully developed yet.

I bet that once you realize this, you can view them with amusement rather than frustration. I think enjoying every moment with our crazy teens is important. So remember, “They’re not actually myelinated yet!”