Helping Adolescents Develop More Mature Ways of Thinking

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Adolescent thinking tends to be focused on the present. But adolescents and teens are rapidly learning new skills related to complex reasoning, inductive and deductive reasoning, sensitivity toward others, flexibility, and problem solving.

Remind yourself that it is normal for adolescents to have a sense of being uniquely invincible, to have an "it will never happen to me" mind-set. This way of thinking may limit their ability to assess situations, risks, and future consequences. As a result, they may engage in risky behaviors and test authority.

The following are some ways you can help your adolescent develop reasoning skills and cognitive abilities.

  • Encourage your adolescent to share his or her thoughts with you.

    Try making concrete observations and asking direct questions. For example, if your child seems troubled by something, say "You look like you've had a hard day," or "You look sad—do you want to talk?"

  • Respond positively to your child's efforts and interests.

    Teens usually appreciate an adult's genuine concern and interest.

  • Help your child make a decision about something that you think is dangerous.

    Talk about the pros and cons of what he or she wants to do. Don't dismiss it. If needed, work together to find something your child can do that would be safer and would still meet the same need. Think about whether it would get in the way of your child's chores or other duties.

  • Help your child solve problems.

    Discuss different options. Use learning exercises, such as role-play, for finding solutions to problems.

  • Encourage your adolescent to develop healthy habits.

    These healthy habits include wearing seat belts or being drug-free. Try setting a good example and talking openly about these issues.

  • Promote higher thinking skills.

    Talk to your adolescent about current issues and modern dilemmas. Be involved in schoolwork by talking to his or her teachers or volunteering at school. If asked, help problem-solve difficult homework.

  • Set the rules in your home together.

    Talk about how rules will be enforced. And be sure to follow through with the agreed-upon consequences when appropriate. Teenagers need and often want limits.


Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.