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Have you talked to a middle schooler lately?

by Shari Allen • Middle School Assistant Principal

The part of the brain that drives emotions develops much more rapidly than those that control logic and reason. ~Shari Allen, Middle School Assistant Principal

Have you ever had an interaction with your teen or tween when he or she said you were “yelling at them” but you were speaking in a normal tone? Or heard your child tell you that a teacher hates them? We’ve all been there. Especially those of us who interact with teens and tweens on a daily basis! Often times, adolescent thoughts are dominated by ever-changing waves of emotions.

Yes – that infographic is accurate! Adolescents misinterpret emotions and instructions up to 40% of the time. That misunderstanding your child had with a long-time friend really may not be quite as bad as your teen described to you. Let’s spend a few minutes thinking about adolescent brain development. As we watch our kids grow and mature, passing their behavior through the filter of understanding where they are developmentally can ease a lot of frustration. The brain growth that occurs during the middle school and early high school years is the 2nd greatest in human life. The last part of the brain to develop is the Pre-Frontal Cortex; it controls impulses, organization, moral reasoning, emotional stability, concentration and prioritizing. The part of the brain that drives emotions develops much more rapidly than those that control logic and reason. Hence, the impulsive emotional roller coaster that we experience during adolescence. Good news! It’s normal & we deal with it every year. Together (and with much prayer for wisdom) we will navigate through it, but we must temper our expectations with this knowledge of how God has wired our children.

Thankfully, as He does in all seasons of our lives, God gives us guidance in His word to help us. Here are 2 truths we always go back to when talking with our middle school students:

  • “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5

  • Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

In those verses, God directs us how to focus our minds. By being the steadying force that continuously points our teens and tweens to God rather than fanning the flames of their emotions, we can help them learn to ground their feelings on the firm foundation of truth.

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