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Inside the fourth grader's brain

What insights can neuroscience offer parents about the mind of a fourth grader?

By Hank Pellissier

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The fourth grader's brain

"Why won’t you let me do that? All my friends get to! They'll laugh at me if I don't get to, too!"

Friendships often emerge as extremely important in fourth graders, an alarmingly trend if it's accompanied by peer group pressure, cliques, bullying, and fierce jockeying for popularity. The slow slippage of influence away from parents towards peers can concern moms and dads, who fear adolescent rebellion is arriving too early.

Are you one of the worriers? Here's comfort for you: The friendship-fixated behavior of your fourth-grader is absolutely normal. Your child's brain has developed a unique "self" at this age, with one-of-a-kind thinking patterns based on individualized neural pathways. You gave love, guidance, nutrition, exercise, education, and enriching experiences, which your child utilized to create dendrites, axons, synapses, and myelin - you were the primary "gardener" of your child's brain! But now, your child might need close peers of the same age for bonding, giggling, secrets, and commiseration.

You're still of preeminent importance, but your guidance will be wiser if you understand what's happening inside your child's sometimes complicated and often funny noggin. Here are some tips about your child's evolving brain and how you can best help:

Photo credit: smeeko

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

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