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My first breakout from Orange this morning was with Tom Shefchunas and we looked at how to understand the middle school mind. I’m pretty passionate about middle school ministry because I have seen it shape the lives of many great leaders over the years. Here is a thought I hope you will process that Tom reminded us this morning. When you don’t understand where your kids are at physically and emotionally you begin to see them as problems to solve. The truth is that we are the last preventative ministry in the life of every teen. They are still forming their identity. They are in discovery mode and we get to invest in their lives. Here are a few things Shef reminded us about this time in the life of a middle school student…

A brain can only do what it is capable of doing.

For middle schoolers…Prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until people are 25 years old. It controls…¬†Alertness and attention / Planning and forethought / Priority setting /Working memory / Multi-tasking / Regulating appropriate social behavior

For middle schoolers…theire Cerebellum is in a state of renovation.
Balance / Language / Motor coordination /Attention

Middle school students are experiencing synaptic pruning – the brain focuses on keeping what is repeated and getting rid of stuff that is not used. Ideas become hard wired by experiences and repetition. Extra info sometimes get lost! We have to teach less for more because the truth is that kids are only going to learn so much. You can’t teach kids everything. You have to decide at the end of the day what is most important.

Middle school students are learning about this idea…Metacognition – the ability to have a conversation with yourself. / middle schoolers hear themselves for the first time.

They realize…
The world does not revolve around them.
Their parents are not perfect. They lose trust.
They are not perfect. They lose trust in themselves.
Others have ideas that are just as important as theirs.
They ask themselves for the first time. Do I believe in mom and dads god?

With middle school students we can expect…
A struggle with sense of identity
Moodiness
They are more likely to express feelings by actions and not words.
Close friendships gain importance.
Less affection shown to parents.
A tendency to return to childish behavior.
Developmental schizophrenia
Peer groups influence interests and clothing style.
A feeling of invincibility
Engagement in risky behaviorsPreference to be with friends over family.
Realize parents are not perfect and sometimes point that out.
A search for new adults to confide in other than parents.