Imagine the average adolescent. What qualities come to mind? You might think about big emotions, sensitivity, defiance, impulsivity, and maybe, just maybe, a hint of self-absorption. While there’s no such thing as a “typical” teen, research tells us that these traits show up for a good reason: they’re part of the process of individuation, or the creation of a sense of self that helps us navigate adulthood. According to Lisa Miller, PhD, “The self is the teen’s instrument for knowing the world – Who I am, what I feel and perceive, what I want and value.” 

Self-awareness is a critical developmental milestone, so Lucero creates opportunities for tweens and teens to have fun discovering who they are, what matters most to them, and how to practice self-care and self-regulation. Here’s more about the science behind self-discovery:

1. Tweens and teens are wired for self-discovery.

Beginning at puberty, tweens get a big boost in neuroplasticity, and plasticity means potential. Research shows that brain processing and memory-forming power peak at age 18. Tweens and teens naturally become more curious, impulsive, sensitive, and self-conscious: qualities that encourage self-reflection and self-awareness. New ideas, people, and experiences are filtered through their emerging sense of self to be integrated or rejected. “It’s important for kids to be challenged and exposed to novelty in order to facilitate healthy development of brain systems that are important for things like self-regulation,” says Lawrence Steinberg, PhD. 

2. Risks and mistakes are part of the process.

As curiosity, sensitivity, and attraction to adventure grow in teens, “these developmental aptitudes for discovery also bring elevated risk,” says Dr. Miller. Take a deep breath, parents and caregivers: Mistakes are part of self-discovery. “The way that the adolescent brain responds to the world has a lot to do with the impulsive, irrational, and wrongheaded decisions teens seem to make so frequently,” says Frances Jensen, PhD. Adolescence brings both increased independence and the need for guidance and guardrails. Tools like Lucero help tweens and teens make decisions based on self-awareness and learn from those inevitable mistakes.

3. Self-discovery helps them find their “Why.”

As tweens and teens set out on the adventure of self-discovery, they’re also on a quest for purpose. This is the perfect time to engage about what matters most to them and what motivates their choices. Project Wayfinder founder Patrick Cook-Deegan says, “the development of purpose is intricately woven with the development of identity… Embarking on a voyage of discovering one’s purpose is critical during the adolescent years.” Remember, though, that pressure to find purpose can backfire by feeling overwhelming to tweens and teens. Keep the emphasis on exploration, not the destination.

4. Self-discovery supports mental health and overall well-being. In the teenage brain, research finds increased communication between the reward-seeking striatum and the memory-storing hippocampus. That means that tweens and teens are more sensitive and impressionable to learning that provides rewarding outcomes. Lucero’s approach to self-care and self-regulation harnesses this science through gamification. When self-discovery is fun and accessible, tweens and teens are more likely to embrace the tools and store them in their long-term memory, thus building a foundation for lifelong well-being. 

Want to share the adventure of self-discovery with the tweens and teens in your life? Lucero’s wellness app is a gamified, bite-sized approach to self-discovery with content that’s co-created by licensed therapists and a team of youth collaborators. The Journey feature invites users on a voyage to Mente Island. Along the way, they develop social-emotional learning skills, build self-awareness, and shape their emerging identity every step of the way.

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