Forgetfulness in Teens

With the onset of adolescence, a teenager might begin to exhibit signs of forgetfulness, making daily life somewhat challenging. Teens often have a variety of activities and duties to juggle, which can make forgetfulness even more of an issue. Some physiological reasons can explain forgetfulness, as can some normal pressures of teenage life.

Limbic System

The brain's limbic system generates and controls emotions and processes memories, according to the California Department of Education. The hormones that surge through a teenager’s body affect the limbic system, which can make a teen have trouble controlling emotions. The limbic system has a direct connection to the prefrontal cortex -- the portion of the brain responsible for attention, working memory, planning, alertness and controlling social behaviors, according to the National Science Teachers’ Association website. Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing during adolescence, this ongoing development affects the limbic system by association.


Throughout adolescence, a teen’s brain grows sharper and faster, increasing a teen’s ability to analyze, think critically and evaluate thoroughly, says Linda Burgess Chamberlain, an epidemiologist specializing in domestic violence, in an article titled “The Amazing Brain.” Though teens are gaining mastery of skills, the prefrontal cortex is not yet well-equipped to multi-task. Teens can become overwhelmed and forgetful with too many instructions or too many tasks to complete. Teens might also forget if they try to perform too many tasks at one time.

Sleep Deprivation

Teenagers who do not sleep enough at night often show symptoms of sleep deprivation, including lethargy and forgetfulness, according to a web page on the Brown University website. If a teenager ranks other activities such as school, work, homework and socializing above the need for sleep, sleep time can decrease to the point where the teenager has trouble concentrating and remembering.


Teachers often use emotions to help teenagers remember facts and lessons. Because the parts of the brain that influence emotion and memory are next to each other in the brain, activating the part that influences emotion often activates memory at the same time, which “tags” the information and helps the teenager remember. The memorable lessons for teenagers are the ones that incite an emotional response.

Helping Teens

Parents can help teens remember more with techniques. Encourage your teenager to get between nine and 10 hours of sleep each night. Keeping instructions simple and succinct will enable a teenager to remember more effectively. Encouraging a teenager to avoid multi-tasking will also help a teen avoid feeling overwhelmed and forgetful. Teens also benefit from assistance and suggestions for personal organization, including maintaining a calendar or homework organizer to remember daily duties and schedules, suggests Chamberlain.