Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

Understanding and Supporting Your Teenagers – the video

The Whole Point of Adolescence and the KEY to Understanding It

I talk to adolescents AND adults about all aspects of teenage brains, behaviours, emotions and well-being and most of the time I say exactly the same, whichever the audience. But what follows is something which is more relevant for adults as it helps you understand from the position of objective observer. Too often – though inevitably – you’re in the game with huge emotional stakes. But for the purposes of this, I ask you to step back, breathe deeply, and look in from outside.

Understanding the POINT of adolescence is, for me, the KEY to everything. It will all then fall into place. AHA moments ahoy!

This is what’s going on

Adolescence is a stage in a JOURNEY. The full journey is our whole life, beginning with our childhood and ending, if we are lucky, in ripe age and wisdom. But the part that is called adolescence is a smaller but very significant part of that journey.

It is the journey:

  • From child to adult – from the child that was to the adult that will be (but isn’t yet)
  • From protection and complete dependence (on the adults who nurture)
  • To no protection and complete independence (dependence on self)

So, the DESTINATION is INDEPENDENCE. Independence is the ability to make one’s own decisions, choose one’s own company, forge one’s own way. It doesn’t mean being alone – we are not islands – but it does mean being able to survive on one’s own terms and under one’s own power.

To achieve that journey from dependence and protection to independence and no protection, the ROUTE necessarily involves SEPARATION. The individual must break or stretch the ties that bind them to the protective adult.

The adolescent brain biologically drives this separation. The adolescent pulls away.

The parent brain retains its own biological drive: to protect. The parent’s brain does not change in biology during this time; only the adolescent brain does because that is the brain that is developing.

This SEPARATION can have several effects – in some individuals more than others. We could call these POTHOLES in the road.


  • Conflict – how can the adolescent build their own views, values and ideas if they do not push against or test yours? How can they be themselves if they can only copy you?
  • Insecurity – separation from protection is frightening; the unknown future which they must face is worrying; they know that bad things can happen and you will not always be there to help them; they want dependence but they fear it – and so they should because if they didn’t they would not take it seriously
  • Peer pressure and reliance – as they loosen and alter the ties with you, they must build new connections in their “group”; humans require strong social bonds and we make those bonds by conforming to some extent with the group we need to join. Teenagers need to do what their peers will approve, not what you will approve. After all, they know deep down that you love them whatever – they do not know that their friends will love them whatever.

There you have it. If you understand adolescence as foremost a journey with the destination of independence, the route one of separation, littered with potholes that only the lucky will avoid entirely, you have a strong starting point to understand so much of what happens in families and schools during this time.

For what’s going on in the brains of adolescents as they (and you!) go through this, Blame My Brain – the Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed will show you (and them) all you need to know. New edition is ready now!

One more day to enter the free signed book giveaway.

Good luck! (With the giveaway AND your journey through adolescence!)



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