Here are some developmental changes that would be nice to be aware of as parents and mentors of middle school students:

Grade 6

Physically

  • Needs lots of food and 9-11 hours of sleep each night
  • Continues losing molars (9-12 years)
  • Girls outpacing guys in development
  • Guys experience changes in height and weight, an increase in hormones, and possible acne
  • Girls experience changes in height and body shape; may begin menstruation (10-16 years)

Mentally

  • Enjoys learning new skills and being challenged
  • Increasingly able to grasp abstract concepts like “justice”
  • Growing ability to see the world from different perspectives
  • Differentiates actions from motives and tries to discern motives (although they frequently misinterpret those motives)
  • Sudden brain growth may lead to forgetfulness

Relationally

  • Debates often, but argues more from emotion than logic
  • Seeks peer approval and conformity
  • Often displays worst behavior at home
  • Benefits from having a same-gender best friend
  • Values non-parental adult influences
  • May have romantic interests and experiment with physical affection

Emotionally

  • Often masks emotions in order to fit in
  • Benefits from talking about feelings
  • Struggles with decision-making
  • Lies more than at any other phase
  • May become preoccupied with perceived abilities and undervalue persistence, effort, and practice

Grade 7-8

Physically

  • Still needs 9-11 hours of sleep each night and may easily fatigue or develops headaches
  • Girls outpace guys in development
  • Guys experience changes in height and body shape and may develop body odor, body hair, and increase muscle mass
  • Girls experience significant growth spurt, development of body odor, body hair, breasts, and menstruation is likely (11-16 years)

Mentally

  • Capable of self-evaluation and self-critique
  • Able to see two sides of an argument
  • Connects information to form an opinion
  • Solves multi-step, complex problems
  • Growing ability to organize

Relationally

  • Often interested in pop culture, slang, current events, politics, or a global cause
  • Wants to negotiate rules and test boundaries
  • Displays an increasingly adult-like personality
  • Needs non-parental adult influences
  • Benefits from having a same-gender best friend

Emotionally

  • Enjoys sarcasm and sophisticated jokes
  • Often interested in leadership roles and teaching younger children
  • May emphasize physical appearance and performance
  • Tends to overschedule their time
  • Benefits from talking about feelings

The chart above details the mental and physical timeline from birth through graduation. You can click on it to make it bigger (or click here).

Developmental information is helpful for general understanding. Obviously these lists are broad markers for students in this developmental area. These lists transport adults back in time so we can remember what was happening to us during tha time. Often we are not aware of what is happening to us in the moment we are in it, so we need adults with perspective to give students hope that they can make it through the tumultuousness of adolescence. Knowing this information is helpful for us to offer wise advice and healthy perspective to students.

source: Phase Summaries justaphase.com/resources/for-leaders

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