In this New York Times–bestselling book, Dr. Daniel Siegel shows parents how to turn one of the most challenging developmental periods in their children’s lives into one of the most rewarding.
Between the ages of twelve and twenty-four, the brain changes in important and, at times, challenging ways. In
Brainstorm, Dr. Daniel Siegel busts a number of commonly held myths about adolescence—for example, that it is merely a stage of “immaturity” filled with often “crazy” behavior. According to Siegel, during adolescence we learn vital skills, such as how to leave home and enter the larger world, connect deeply with others, and safely experiment and take risks.
Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, Siegel explores exciting ways in which understanding how the brain functions can improve the lives of adolescents, making their relationships more fulfilling and less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.
"Brainstorm is a must read book for every parent if they want to avoid emotional turbulence in their own lives as their children go through adolescence. It''s lifesaving for the whole family."
—Deepak Chopra, MD
Brainstorm is eye-opening and inspiring, a great gift to us all—teens, parents of teens, and anyone who wants a full and rich life on this planet. Daniel Siegel shows how the supposed downsides of the teen years all have upsides, and that the lessons for living that await teens are ones any of us, at any age, can learn from.”
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"Siegel emerges as a bighearted writer, fully convinced that we all possess the fundamental virtues to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, and he is eager for us to set them loose, working with adolescents to cultivate the positive aspects—and he is hugely convincing of the intense engagement and creativity that often accompany this time period in a person’s life. Smart advice...on providing the most supportive and brain-healthy environment during the tumultuous years of adolescence."
“This book is chock-full of cutting-edge knowledge as well as a deep compassion for teenagers, the adults they will become, and the teenagers in all of us.”
Brainstorm is a necessary look at why adolescents do what they do that can put parents in an emotional frenzy. The information that Dr. Dan Siegel shares is not only invaluable for understanding your growing child''s brain, but helps build more compassion and patience. A gift for us all.”
"By the end of this book, the teenager has been transformed from a monstrous force into a thinking, feeling, and entirely approachable human being."
“I strongly recommend
Brainstorm to teens and those who care for them.”
—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia
“‘You just don’t get me’ is a common refrain from teenagers to their parents and teachers. Adolescents who read this book will discover that Daniel Siegel gets them . . . This respectfulness is why the book works so well as a manual for adolescents, as well as for their parents and mentors.”
Lawrence Cohen, author of The Opposite of Worry
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, founding codirector of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute. He is also coauthor of
Parenting from the Inside Out and
The Whole-Brain Child, and the proud father of two children in their twenties.
The Benefits and Challenges of Adolescence
The essential features of adolescence emerge because of healthy, natural changes in the brain. Since the brain influences both our minds and our relationships, knowing about the brain can help us with our inner experience and our social connections. In our journey I’ll show how this understanding, and learning the steps to strengthen the brain in practical ways, can help us build a more resilient mind and more rewarding relationships with others.
During the teen years, our minds change in the way we remember, think, reason, focus attention, make decisions, and relate to others. From around age twelve to age twenty-four, there is a burst of growth and maturation taking place as never before in our lives. Understanding the nature of these changes can help us create a more positive and productive life journey.
I’m the father of two adolescents. I also work as a physician in the practice of child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry, helping kids, teens, adults, couples, and families make sense of this exciting time in life. In addition to working as a psychotherapist, I also teach about mental health. What has struck me in each of these roles is that there is no book available that reveals the view that the adolescent period of life is in reality the one with the most power for courage and creativity. Life is on fire when we hit our teens. And these changes are not something to avoid or just get through, but to encourage.
Brainstorm was born from the need to focus on the positive essence of this period of life for adolescents and for adults.
While the adolescent years may be challenging, the changes in the brain that help support the unique emergence of the adolescent mind can create qualities in us that help not only during our adolescent years, if used wisely, but also as we enter adulthood and live fully as an adult. How we navigate the adolescent years has a direct impact on how we’ll live the rest of our lives. Those creative qualities also can help our larger world, offering new insights and innovations that naturally emerge from the push back against the status quo and from the energy of the teen years.
For every new way of thinking and feeling and behaving with its positive potential, there is also a possible downside. Yet there
is a way to learn how to make the most of the important positive qualities of the teenage mind during adolescence and to use those qualities well in the adult years that come later.
Brain changes during the early teen years set up four qualities of our minds during adolescence: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration. There are changes in the fundamental circuits of the brain that make the adolescent period different from childhood. These changes affect how teens seek rewards in trying new things, connect with their peers in different ways, feel more intense emotions, and push back on the existing ways of doing things to create new ways of being in the world. Each of these changes is necessary to create the important shifts that happen in our thinking, feeling, interacting, and decision making during our adolescence. Yes, these positive changes have negative possibilities, too. Let’s see how each of these four features of the adolescent brain’s growth has both upsides and downsides, and how they fill our lives with both benefits and risks.
Novelty seeking emerges from an increased drive for rewards in the circuits of the adolescent brain that creates the inner motivation to try something new and feel life more fully, creating more engagement in life.
Downside: Sensation seeking and risk taking that overemphasize the thrill and downplay the risk result in dangerous behaviors and injury. Impulsivity can turn an idea into an action without pause to reflect on the consequences.
Upside: Being open to change and living passionately emerge, as the exploration of novelty is honed into a fascination for life and a drive to design new ways of doing things and living with a sense of adventure.
Social engagement enhances peer connectedness and creates new friendships.
Downside: Teens isolated from adults and surrounded only by other teens have increased-risk behavior, and the total rejection of adults and adult knowledge and reasoning increases those risks.
Upside: The drive for social connection leads to the creation of supportive relationships that are the research-proven best predictors of well-being, longevity, and happiness throughout the life span.
Increased emotional intensity gives an enhanced vitality to life.
Downside: Intense emotion may rule the day, leading to impulsivity, moodiness, and extreme, sometimes unhelpful, reactivity.
Upside: Life lived with emotional intensity can be filled with energy and a sense of vital drive that give an exuberance and zest for being alive on the planet.
Creative exploration with an expanded sense of consciousness. An adolescent’s new conceptual thinking and abstract reasoning allow questioning of the status quo, approaching problems with “out of the box” strategies, the creation of new ideas, and the emergence of innovation.
Downside: Searching for the meaning of life during the teen years can lead to a crisis of identity, vulnerability to peer pressure, and a lack of direction and purpose.
Upside: If the mind can hold on to thinking and imagining and perceiving the world in new ways within consciousness, of creatively exploring the spectrum of experiences that are possible, the sense of being in a rut that can sometimes pervade adult life can be minimized and instead an experience of the “ordinary being extraordinary” can be cultivated. Not a bad strategy for living a full life!
While we can brainstorm lots of new ideas inside us that we can share collaboratively during the creative explorations and novelty seeking of adolescence, we can also enter another kind of brainstorm as we lose our coordination and balance and our emotions act like a tsunami, flooding us with feelings. That’s when we get filled with not only mental excitement but also with mental confusion. Adolescence involves both types of brainstorms.
In a nutshell, the brain changes of adolescence offer both risk and opportunity. How we navigate the waters of adolescence—as young individuals on the journey or as adults walking with them—can help guide the ship that is our life into treacherous places or into exciting adventures. The decision is ours.