Have you noticed that your adolescent son has become unusually concerned about how he looks and what he is wearing? This typically comes as a surprise to most parents because their son certainly didn’t express these concerns just a year ago. With middle school right around the corner, why such a change?
The answer is different than you might expect. During the important middle school years, your son’s brain is going through tremendous change. In particular, how he responds to you and to the new challenges he faces. His heightened concern regarding wearing the “right” clothes and carrying a certain backpack, actually comes from messages he is getting the prefrontal cortex in his brain.
The Prefrontal Cortex and Self-awareness
The prefrontal cortex is located behind the forehead. It is one of the last parts of the brain to fully develop. The prefrontal cortex is assigned several tasks and one of them is self-awareness. This is where the clothes and backpack come in. It’s not just peer-pressure that is pushing his emotional buttons. The prefrontal cortex is making him aware of what others are wearing and making him feel the need to fit in.
Support Your Son-Pick Your Battles Carefully
There are many potential battles ahead if you have an adolescent in middle school, and I suggest that you pick your battles very carefully. If his clothing and backpack request are not way out of bounds, try to go with it. This might be an opportunity to reassure him that you are on his team and you understand how important this is to him.
As you watch your adolescent son change during the next few years, remember his brain is developing rapidly, and that is a big reason he is changing. It’s all about the anatomy!