Understanding the Teenage Brain

Understanding the Teenage Brain

Understanding the Teenage Brain

Why do our teenagers get such a bad wrap? Moody, difficult, disorganised, are all words that are associated with teenagers. Some parents dread the teen years or are already finding them extremely challenging. Yet teenagers can be so bright, sensitive, caring, fun and curious about life, so why is there such discord at this stage of their lives?

One common misconception of teenager’s behaviour is the influx of hormones at puberty but as Frances Jensen explains in her book ‘The Teenage Brain’ this has more to do with the way their brains are reacting to the hormones, than the hormones in isolation. The brain’s frontal lobe, placed right behind the forehead is only fully developed in your early twenties and as this the place where actions are weighed, situations judged and decisions are made, it goes along way to understand the seemly foolish and risky decisions that we made ourselves and that teenagers can be prone to making.

The teenage brain is busy building new connections, especially neurotransmitters, the brain’s messengers and so this time of intense growth and flexibly not only gives our teenagers a window of opportunity for incredible accomplishments but also increases the liability for them to be adversely affected by stress, drugs, alcohol and environment changes. The teenage brain is just not yet hard-wired to make adults decisions.

So how can we support our teenagers through this time as they are developing a perception of themselves, questioning how others see them and forming their identity within their friendship groups. Just as we turn to certain close friends in times of stress, knowing that they will be non-judgemental and supportive, so teenager’s relationships and friendships are very important. However via social media, their friends and any games they might be playing can have access to them pretty much 24/7 via notifications, so try to encourage children to switch off some of these notifications so that they can be in control of how and when they are contactable. Study apps such as ‘Forest’ can help to manage their devices in order to get their work completed whilst uninterrupted.

We should also be proud of our teenagers and support their independence, they’re coming out from under our wings to enable them to transfer into young adulthood. Teens are making important decisions about their school subject choices and further study options and as well as forming their attitudes to sex, drugs and alcohol, so crucially this is not a time to switch off. As independent as they may seem, we still need to be on hand to try to guide and advise them, explaining potential hazards and encouraging healthy attitudes, just be prepared to repeat any advice over and over again.

Our current educational value system can have a negative affect on children. Although we know now that emotional intelligence is just as important as academic intelligence, this hasn’t always been recognised and our tradition system of grading subjects may make children feel that they aren’t doing well, if they not getting the grades that are said to be acceptable or comparable to their peers. As Shefali Tisbaary says in her book ‘The Conscious Parent’, knowing how her daughter was doing as a person at home, meant that she didn’t need to concern herself with how she was doing at maths, reading and writing at school. Her focus was on how good a student her daughter was at life, rather than how good a student she was at school.

After many years of early morning wake ups and children’s TV shows on repeat, costly babysitting has come to an end and it is time to enjoy our teenagers. Arm them with the science to explain what is going on in their brains and by actually listening to them we can maintain a connection with them, whilst also setting some fair boundaries. As my great friend and author Andy Baggott explained to me, parenting shouldn’t be a dictatorship, we can’t presume to have the authority as adults, as demanding behaviour from children with threats, will only illicit submission or deceit, neither traits we would want to promote.

Teenagers need to be respected as well as cared for, so any frustration or anger we might feel with their behaviour is an opportunity to look at ourselves and see why these feelings are coming up. I’ve just started a new podcast Healthy Happy Home, and all the usual platforms, and when we talked on our second episode about “conscious parenting” I thought that there was no choice but to be conscious whilst parenting, unconsciously parenting would surely mean that you are either asleep or hung-over, (both of which I have certainly done many times… ) so really what other option is there than to be conscious? But I understand now that what it really means is being conscious of our own reactions and actions. This teenage stage of parenting is a last chance saloon for us to really learn from our children before they become adults, a final window to take a look at our value systems and see where we have triggers hiding that we can clear out. Personally I take quite a bit of advice from my children these days and why not. I figure I might as well get something back after all those years of childcare and anyway, as experimental as they may be at this age, their brains are certainly fresher than mine.

Tilly and Josh’s bohemian country wedding. The Dress Tribe.

Tilly and Josh's bohemian country wedding

Understanding the Teenage Brain

It was a day to remember and a day full of beautiful contrast for actress, model and producer Tilly Wood and husband Josh Young, the founders of Retreat Life, a bespoke retreat company creating exclusive escapes to focus on personal wellbeing, fitness and health. The couple brought their laid back and spontaneous personalities to life as they tied the knot in the heart of Gloucestershire. From meeting in Bali, getting engaged over Italian food in Barnes, to celebrating the wedding reception on Tilly’s sister’s lawn over homemade infused vodka, a disco ball and barefoot dancing, their wedding truly was a magical day.


Josh and I were both in agreement about the vibe we were going for. We didn’t want it to be too formal so we chose sharing plates for the tables and the beautiful canvas tipis gave it such an intimate and boho vibe. The beautiful church service was traditional but had a very relaxed and fun atmosphere. 


We had so much help from family and friends, which gave it a very intimate and loving atmosphere. My friend Margaret made all the salads and we didn’t have a traditional wedding cake as it felt too formal so my friend Candy made lots of the most delicious chocolate cakes with berries and cream served on the tables with an assortment of flavoured vodkas that me and my girlfriends made on one of my hen nights. We didn’t label them and some were delicious and some not so which was quite funny. 


I used lots of flowers from my sisters garden in the church and decorated it with my friends and family. One of my best friends Ros brought beautiful white rose petals with her from Marrakesh for the confetti and also my favourite Frankincense incense to burn in the church which was gave it the most amazing atmosphere. 

For the reception decor we went into the woods and pulled ivy off the trees, which we used to wrap around the poles in the tipi with fairy lights which was super pretty. We added a big disco ball and lots of candles and flowers from the garden in various mixed glass vases and jam jars on the tables, a fire pit and some tables outside the tipi. 

Tilly and Josh's bohemian country wedding


We got a couple of great friends who are DJs to play after the dinner and so I changed out of my dress into a vintage one and danced barefoot all night. Our dear friend Louis Baker sang his song Rainbow in the church which was so moving! I actually really loved the church service as it was lovely to have those moments of quiet and also a few laughs. I am not particularly religious but it felt very spiritual and special and the acoustics were great.



I tried on quite a lot but they just all felt too flouncy and elaborate. I wanted a vintage dress but I couldn’t find quite the right thing, I think its quite hard to find the perfect vintage dress for a wedding as they just aren’t quite pristine enough. I decided not to have something made as it felt like it would be quite time consuming and I was sure I would find THE dress! In the end I went for something more modern for the day with a vintage dress for the night.

I had already worn the exact dress in black and I loved how it felt! It holds you in in all the right places and it has pockets. I kind of liked that it was more contemporary amongst all the boho and the veil was miles long and beautiful.



I wore a beautiful pair of Aquazzura gold platforms which just made the dress they were so rocking and we brought the tulle for the veil from, Joel and Sons and my friend Cozmo hand sewed flowers into it that morning, it was very beautiful. Chanel sent me Gardenia to wear and as I had a make up test with them beforehand, the make up was just perfect. 



A gorgeous morning suit by Favourbrook and a Hugo Boss shirt and shoes by Ferragamo. He looked super handsome. His best man, my son, Arthur, wore Favourbrook too. Lola chose her own dress, it was a Realisation Par, ivory mini dress and she wore shoes with straw platforms, she looked stunning. She also wore a Salome necklace and bracelet made with moonstone.