Middle school years can be some of the most difficult for young adolescents to go through. In the midst of stepping into a new educational atmosphere, they are also navigating social relationships, all the while being bombarded by hormones that demand to be acknowledged. Many times these hormones seem to ambush the attitudes of our beloved children, sending them into a whirlwind of unfamiliar territory with what can feel like a lack of ability to navigate the situation. During these difficult years, it’s imperative that the adults in their lives, as contradictory as it feels at times, take special notice and express grace, understanding, and patience. And because it’s easier to sympathize when there is understanding, let’s take a look at the child’s brain development during these years, and how we can help them navigate difficult waters.


High Risk Reward

One of the main areas of the brain that is underdeveloped during this stage of growth is the frontal lobe. This area being responsible for decision making. Because this area is so underdeveloped, it can cause your children to become extremely emotional in their decision making. Studies have shown that this is likely the age that your children could start experimenting with smoking, alcohol, drugs, or unsafe, high-intensity activities, which can be detrimental to their health and their safety. These risk-taking activities are often spurred on due to the higher rate of activation of the anterior insula in this age bracket versus an adult brain. As a result, the sensitivity of reward is hypersensitive, hence the seemingly wild endeavors your child may try. During this time, don’t underestimate the weight of your approval and connection with your child. In the midst of this stage, it’s important that they understand you are on their side and support them as they learn these new hormones. You may also start to notice a tendency to crave sweet or fatty foods and beverages. These foods and drinks feed the pleasure center of the brain as well and can cause early development of unhealthy eating habits. Which leads us into our next point…

Grey Matter, Mattersdreamstime_xxl_44995803

In an interview with Jay Giedd regarding the teenage brain, he explains that the teenage brain is developing what is referred to as grey matter. Though 95 percent of the adult-size brain is completed by age six, this grey matter begins to thicken and make dreamstime_xxl_16995439more connections in the teen years. Due to the multiple new connections the brain is starting to make, the possibilities are innumerable. The peak period of time the brain develops is at the exact time of puberty. This means the interactions and influences of parents, nutrition, teachers, and more, are all playing a part during this build-up of connections in the brain. As previously stated, this is crucial to be aware of when interacting with your child, or other adolescents. Probably the most critical piece to highlight in the all of this is understanding that the habits developed in this stage, if continued, will most likely become a habit that forms and can affect them for the next 75+ years of their life. Once the peak of this matter development is done, the brain then goes through a sort of pruning phase which will remove any connections that are not used. This can pose a serious issue if any unhealthy habits regarding diet, exercise, even tactics in how they learn, are made permanent in their brain connections. For these reasons it’s important to help your child instill a good diet, routine, and encourage them in areas they love. As they continue to grow, these connections will remain within their brain development.

Though 95 percent of adult-size brain is completed by age six, this grey matter begins to make more connections in the teen years.

Discipline Direction

Perhaps one of the most difficult roles to take in an adolescent life, is the role of the disciplining parent. Though difficult, psychologists recommend an authoritative approach when dealing with the ups and downs of hormones. Be careful that this doesn’t get confused with a controlling aspect of parenting. Instilling a sort of repetitive scolding method in your parenting can create a strong mentality of inadequacy in your child, defeating their confidence and setting up a feeling of earning that is not healthy. In contrast, using an authoritative method gives your child a consistent goal-oriented direction based on firm, but gentle love. Permissive parents can be just as damaging as a controlling parent, in a different way. By giving an overdose of unearned praise, your child will likely develop a mentality of false attainment, which can set them up for a harsh reality when they are immersed on the world around them.

dreamstime_xxl_6040448Brain Building

In the midst of gaining more of a connection through their middle school years, children gain the ability and skill to:

  • Problem solve
  • Develop deductive reasoning
  • Organize
  • Plan

and much more. The frontal lobe of their brain is also referred to as the CEO because of the so-called executive role it plays. Due to all of this developing activity, encourage your child to get involved in activities that will capitalize and further help develop these areas such as checkers, chess, or other games with strategic-based strategies. Starting these activities in the critical development stage will strengthen those connections and help them stick long term.

At New Vision, our passion is to help your middle school students learn and maximize their potential. This age is crucial for your child to be supported, taught, and understood. With class sizes that accommodate a more balanced ratio of teachers versus student (capped at 27),  you can trust your child will be worked with one-on-one more effectively. We work with our students to help grow and challenge their minds with our content-rich, core knowledge curriculum, while building their self-confidence in and outside of the classroom.

Our success with our middle school students is evident in our test scores, which are the highest in the area. Our mission is to maximize learning potential while committing to a smaller class size. Our hope is to provide an environment where your child can feel safe, and challenged to reach their potential. We also believe that you, as parents, play a crucial role and should be actively involved in the education of your child. For this reason, we welcome any advice or input you may have. New Vision Charter School is the oldest charter school in Loveland and is in the top ten percentile for achieving middle schools in Colorado. Invest in your child’s education, development, and future by enrolling them in our middle school program. Contact us today with any questions or concerns.