Think of a pre-teen or a teen and what comes to mind? Parents usually think about (and dread!) the usual stereotypes associated with this age group, but did you know that this the last big window of learning in a child’s development? Primed to change, adapt and respond to environmental cues, the developing adolescent brain provides a window of opportunity, which can be positively harnessed to truly create some of the most meaningful and impactful experiences that can shape a child for life.
Advances in brain imaging that came to light in the 2000s, revealing that the brain is still nowhere near being fully developed, have put to rest the notion that teens act erratically, emotionally and sometimes even recklessly due to a natural aversion to authority or fluxuations in their hormone levels. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in decision-making, planning and self-control, is still maturing and hence, these kids are highly susceptible to stimuli, good or bad.
A teen, not positively engaged, can act out or fall prey to behaviors and habits they gravitate towards out of boredom or from negative influences. The adolescent brain is at its peak in terms of malleability and plasticity, so the opportunity is ripe to guide and help set a proper and inspired course for youth. What are the keys to unlock these great possibilities?
We asked Graeme Scott, Director of Fairgreen International School, an IB continuum curriculum school in Dubai that embraces sustainability in all its forms, to share how educators and parents can help adolescents develop habits and practices that will gear them toward success throughout their lives.
“As an educational leader, I have a responsibility to not only understand the role curriculum plays in educating our youth, but I need to understand how best to deliver that curriculum to ensure that students are developing the skills they will need to truly gain knowledge and succeed, such as critical thinking, creativity and curious inquiry. The route and method of education is just as important as the content. Understanding how students learn is vital to developing a method and program that will allow them to learn and to develop traits that will help them to be successful adults.”
To support the most positive trajectory of development for your teen, Mr. Scott suggests to take note of the following:
1. Challenge, engage and satisfy the search for novelty in teens by providing hands-on, stimulating learning experiences. These experiences will keep pushing the boundaries of their capacities to learn and grow, expanding this circuitry in their brains, hardwiring them for future success.
2. Encourage teens to have a voice, inspire them to speak up and advocate for their beliefs and seek their passions, which in turn will help them lead them to develop their full potential. Helping teens find their voice and use their voice in their adolescence will empower them to do so throughout their lives.
3. Put your kids in the right environment, one that is filled with positive influences and people who will inspire them toward the right path. The teenage brain is extremely malleable, which means it can change, adapt and respond to its environment. If your children are surrounded by people who are bad influences or engaged in negative behaviors, such as drinking or drugs, they may become deeply affected by those people and gravitate toward those behaviors. Be aware of who they spend time with and what activities they are engaged in.
4. Kids need sleep. Recent studies have shown that a lot of neuronal connections take place during sleep. Emerging science suggests sleep may play an even more important role than we thought in terms of brain development.
Mr. Scott will present further insight and details on “Demystifying Adolescence: How to Harness Your Child’s Incredible Learning Potential” at the next Open Day event at Fairgreen International School on Saturday, January 18, at 9:15 a.m.
Fairgreen’s Head of Counselling, Mrs. Jackie Greenwood, will also share her insights and guidance for parents on the adolescent stage of childhood. Directly following, families can tour Fairgreen’s campus and speak directly to administrators about Fairgreen’s IB continuum curriculum and how they are empowering youth to be the future leaders, change-makers and innovators.
To register, please visit www.fairgreen.ae