Inside the tweener's brain
What insights can neuroscience offer parents about the mind of a middle schooler?
By Hank Pellissier
The middle schooler's brain
"When I’m a grown-up, I want to be totally awesome."
The tweens and early teens of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade are often hormone-addled, pimpled, unpredictable narcissists, rudely defiant one second and emotionally clingy the next. They've probably calculated that you're not as completely cool as Lady Gaga, Peyton Manning, or even their faddishly-dressed BFF – and they let you know it. You may wonder if your precious child's body is inhabited by aliens. Honestly, close guess — those invading “aliens” are hormones.
When kids reach puberty, their brains produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When GnRH courses into the tiny pituitary gland, two additional hormones — luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) — escape and basically run wild. In boys, these hormones swim south, telling the testes to start manufacturing testosterone and sperm. In girls, LH and FSH manipulate the ovaries, soliciting production of estrogen. Either way, all hell breaks loose.
During this traumatic time, we need to provide often-unwanted (but typically much-needed) love, advice, and support — which is why it's helpful to know what's occurring, anatomically, in their evolving noggins. Here's how you can better understand — and navigate — the cranial crises of your adolescent child.
Photo credit: Five eyes