Event for All Parents: "The Teenage Brain"
Posted 01/25/2016 06:17PM

Presentation for Parents on "The Teenage Brain"

Frances Jensen, author of "The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults"

Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7 pm, Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts, Free

Over the past few decades, the increased use of functional MRIs has allowed scientists and academics to learn so much more about the development of the human brain. One of the many key findings in this recent research is that the teenage brain is still in a crucial stage of development. In fact, some of the most important parts of the brain, the frontal lobes, are the last to fully develop. It is in these areas, where much of our organization and decision making take place.

As this brain research has opened up, so has the literature surrounding it. One of the best books on the development of the adolescent brain is Frances Jensen’s "The Teenage Brain." A neuroscientist, Dr. Jensen is professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Having raised two boys herself, Jensen writes from the perspective of a scientist and a mother. Not only is the book clearly and elegantly written, it is also logically and conveniently structured. Readers can pick up the book and easily access information and advice on specific topics such as childhood brain development, sleep, stress, alcohol and risk taking. Jensen seeks to inform any population that interacts with children and young adults on a consistent basis, especially parents and educators. Here is an introductory quotation that captures the essence of the book:

“Because of the flexibility and growth of the brain, adolescents have a window of opportunity with an increased capacity for remarkable accomplishments. But flexibility, growth, and exuberance are a double-edged sword because an ‘open’ and excitable brain also can be adversely affected by stress, drugs, chemical substances, and any number of changes in the environment. And because of an adolescent’s often overactive brain, those influences can result in problems dramatically more serious than they are for adults.”

Last spring, Upper School parents were invited to read "The Teenage Brain" over the summer. This year, we have had several Upper School Parent Forums focusing exclusively on the research, findings and suggestion in this book and how they apply to our own children and students. While the focus of the book is obviously on adolescence, Jensen goes into great detail on brain development throughout childhood. The book and Jensen's visit to Penn Charter are important opportunities for parents of all ages! 

Upper School English teacher Lisa Turner has two young children in the Lower School here at PC. Jensen’s book, Lisa said: “has become a crucial conversational bridge for me. My eight-year-old, intrigued by the cover, started asking me about it, and we began an ongoing discussion about the differences between child brains, teenage brains and adult brains. (I told her that I would be ready when her brain made things seem VERY emotional and stressful! She was confident it would never happen.) 

"Jensen's book has also provided context for work with Upper School students," Lisa noted, "helping us understand more fully teenagers' developmental ranges, emotional states and stressors. One of the most important takeaways, from the ‘The Digital Invasion of the Teenage Brain’ chapter, is that phones and other devices are a yet-to-be-studied brain stimulus that is potentially akin to cigarettes or other substances in terms of their negative effects on growing brains. The book has renewed my commitment to providing screen-free ‘protected spaces’ for my own children and students — moments for their vibrant and receptive brains to grow and thrive on empathic, responsive, human interaction."

We encourage parents to bring friends, family members, and lots of questions! You do not need to have read the book to join us. 

Frances Jensen's visit is supported by the PC Distinguished Speaker Series.


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A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

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