Try as I might (and oh, I have tried), I have not yet found my way to Peter Pan’s paradise, Never-Never land; the land of infinite childhood, safely away from the horrors of growing up.
Now, that’s not entirely fair, because along with those horrors (and yes, responsibilities), comes great freedom, great fun, and lots of potential. But like any destination worth reaching, there is (at least) one significant challenge on the journey along the way. For some, this may come earlier, and for some, of course, later. For me, and for many others, a very challenging part of that journey is in adolescence.
This ambiguous period of time of “growing up” is often defined equally vaguely as spanning “from the onset of puberty to complete maturity.” We recognize it as the pimpled skin, braces, giggling gossip, social skirmishes, loud music, and great self-discovery in youth. This time often holds the first real experiences of a sense of freedom, personal identity, and big dreams for the future.
Again, every person’s experience of this period is very individual. In fact, it is a period of development closely related to a growth spurt in the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain engaged in executive functioning, coordinating ideas and behaviors, and abstract ideas and concepts. These functions play a large role in personality formation, and are paralleled in the actual structure of the brain and it’s changes during this time.
Neurologically, we all undergo a process of “pruning” during adolescence, very similar to spring cleaning. It is a process of getting rid of neural connections that are unnecessary, allowing the brain to be more efficient.
Unfortunately, many kids aren’t getting enough of the kind of support they need throughout these neurological overhauls, social changes, and inner personal development.
We see First Lady, Michelle Obama very involved in the nutritional and physical health of our country’s youth, but we still get a huge array of mixed messages about what health exactly is for kids.
During the neural development happening in this period, it is important to get a balance of all food groups, activity, and social relationships.
Here, at HartsSpace, we’re planning an Autumn Group for kids to support this discovery process.
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