Teen brain development expert, author coming to Oregon City
Oregon City Together is hosting two presentations this month featuring Dr. Crystal Collier, a nationally recognized therapist and educator.
Collier, a licensed professional counselor who in 2013 earned a doctorate degree in counselor education from Sam Houston State University in Texas, is an expert in adolescent brain development, prevention programming, parent coaching and addiction.
Her book, "The NeuroWhereAbouts Guide," can be found at the Oregon City Library in English as well as Spanish, providing a neurodevelopmental guide for parents who want to prevent risky behavior in children of all ages.
Oregon City Together asked Collier a few questions ahead of her upcoming visit.
Why is it important that parents understand teen brain development?
Great question! I feel it is just as important to know the whereabouts of your child's brain development as it is to know your child's physical whereabouts, where they are hanging out and who they are spending time with. That's why I named my book, "The NeuroWhereabouts Guide."
Human brains do not fully develop until the mid-20s. So much is going on in a teen brain! The more parents know about adolescent brain development, the better they can address issues like their child's high-risk behaviors. This is what I called brain-based parenting.
And when I say, high-risk teen behaviors, as any parent knows, there are a lot of them. For example, I researched the effect of 18 different risky behaviors on the brain for my book. These include alcohol use, binge drinking, self-injury, marijuana use, gambling, vaping, cyberbullying, eating disorders, sexting and video-game addiction. Unfortunately, it is a long list to keep parents up at night! I've graphed each so, parents know when they spike and when to talk to their child.
What are the most important things parents need to know about teen brain development?
That teen brains are still developing. Especially the frontal cortex or what some call, the frontal lobe. The brain develops from back to front so the limbic system matures before the frontal cortex. We sometimes wonder why teens seem to be involved in a lot of drama and emotions . . . one of the reasons why is because the frontal lobe is not fully developed. This part of the brain is accountable for higher-level thinking, executive thinking, planning, organizing, analyzing, problem-solving and regulating emotions.
Brain-savvy parenting can help kids grow longer, faster pathways of neurons in the frontal lobe which means more complex and efficient executive function skills as their child matures and less engagement in risky behavior.
You've mentioned brain-savvy parenting, what is that?
A brain-savvy parent is aware of adolescent brain development, especially when the frontal lobe functions begin coming online. They notice and praise executive function skills, something I call brain-based praise. Such as saying "fantastic problem-solving" instead of "you are so smart." The use it or lose principle is certainly at play and brain-savvy adults encourage teens to engage in activities that make them apply critical thinking skills.
Brain-savvy adults are aware of the negative impact that substance use has on the developing teen brain. Basically, using alcohol and other drugs causes abnormally high levels of dopamine in the adolescent brain. The brain then reduces the level of dopamine it normally produces and grows more receptor sites for dopamine. The decrease will make the teen feel down and begin building tolerance. The teen then uses the substance again to feel good but needs more to achieve the same feeling. This cycle is how addiction occurs. And one of the reasons why teens become addicted more than adults is because teen brains are more sensitive to dopamine. Brain-savvy parents know this and prepare.
First, know when to talk about each risky behavior. Second, have the talk. I've put scripts and conversation starters in my book to help with this process. Many parents I've spoken with are using the book with their kids. I wrote it in an infographic style with lots of great graphics to make it interesting for both parents and teens.
We have to be our child's frontal lobe until they have one of their own. So, use the effective, prevention science strategies available. For example, we know more about the risk factors that increase the likelihood of high-risk behavior than we did in the past. We also know more about the protective factors that can have the reverse effect. Parents today have the opportunity to know more than their parents did, and to act on this information.
And we keep talking about parents but it's not just up to them. Knowing about these factors can help families, schools and the community develop strategies to decrease risks and increase protective factors. My new prevention program, BrainAbouts, is based on all the research in my book. It is a plug-n-play format accessible for school staff, parents and students 24/7 including videos for each development level. I'll share more information about the program during my visit.
Anything else you want people to know about your upcoming visit?
Oregon City Together and I did an online webinar last year and I am looking forward to being there in person this year! I encourage people to bring their questions for me to answer. I really try to make my presentations informative, fun and dynamic.
When: Dr. Crystal Collier's presentations will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. April 13 and 14
Wednesday location: Museum of the Oregon Territory's Tumwater Ballroom, 211 Tumwater Drive, Oregon City
Thursday location: End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, 1726 Washington St., Oregon City
Go to octogether.org to learn more and register.
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