Adolescents (ages 10 to 19 years) are at an age where their brains are primed to learn and take in information rapidly, but their brains are also incredibly prone to distraction. By understanding why kids are so easily distracted, we can better assist them in achieving focus and harnessing their brains’ learning superpowers!
Effective study strategies and tools are vital to supporting high schoolers in their learning, focus, and understanding of their school subjects. There are many study strategies worth trying, each with its own unique benefits.
A 2019 study found that high-school students who practiced meditation had greater attention spans than those who did not. Another study led by Patricia Broderick, Assistant Research Professor at Penn State University, highlighted the effect of meditation and mindfulness on the well-being of adolescents. The participants of the study who practiced meditation exhibited increased calmness, emotional regulation, and general wellbeing.
In 1928, Margaret Mead, an American Cultural Anthropologist, was famously reported saying, "Children should be taught how to think, and not what to think." It turns out she was way ahead of her time and was already tapping into a theory that educational psychologists would later term 'Metacognition'.
When it comes to attention spans, teenagers have it even worse than us. The average teenager has an attention span of approximately 35 minutes. Pre-teens, younger children, and those with ADHD have even less than that. This is why hours of studying or homework, without structure or breaks, are rarely successful or sustainable.
Play is inherently fun, but serves a far greater evolutionary purpose than just entertainment. That's why the act of play activates the nucleus accumbens -- the reward center of the brain. Its by-products, learning, creativity, social connection, and problem-solving, were critical to the evolution of our ancestors. As Dr. Brown explains, we are 'built to play and built by play.'
When our body is exposed to cold, a stress response is triggered and as a result a cocktail of neurochemicals. These neurochemicals are responsible for initiating, directing, and sustaining focus. Cold exposure has a significant effect on cognitive performance, specifically in terms of enhancing focus and attention.
Susan David, Harvard Medical School Psychologist and bestselling author of Emotional Agility, describes the concept as the ability to mindfully navigate positive and negative emotions.
Fear-setting is an extremely helpful tool for adults and children alike to learn to identify their fears and to separate what can be controlled from what cannot. By focusing on what is in our control, and taking action, we can decrease emotional reactivity and stress.
It has long been debated whether early specialization or sampling (allowing children to try an array of hobbies and sports) is more effective in setting kids up for success in any given area. Angela Duckworth explains that “young people thrive when given the freedom to explore a wide array of interests without an obligation to stick with any of them.”
Boredom has an evolutionary purpose and is critical for brain health. A Northeastern University study found that during periods of mind-wandering, our brain networks are more active than ever. "Virtually the whole brain was involved", said Kuyci. So what are our brains doing while we are bored and why should we start embracing boredom?
The way we respond to stress and anxiety gives us a degree of control over the way we allow it to affect us and alter our wellbeing. This is thanks to neuroplasticity -- the brain's ability to change. By changing our thinking and taking practical steps to work through anxiety, rather than avoid it, we can transform anxiety into something useful.
Research indicates that eating communally as a family unit is becoming less and less common, especially in the US. Only 30% of American families share meals regularly and the average family shares a meal less than five days a week.
A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Social Science and Economic Research explored the effect of meditation on the achievement, attention, and memory of high school students. The study found that those high schoolers who practiced meditation showed improved memory and greater attention spans.
It's never too late to learn new habits, or unlearn old ones. According to Professor Laurence Steinberg, a leading expert on adolescent psychological development, between the ages of 12 and 25, our brains are most plastic.
As parents, it’s easy to worry that our teens are sleeping far too much or that they only make their way out of their bedrooms in the afternoons on weekends. If this rings true to you, I urge you not to be too concerned. We know now, thanks to recent developments in neuroscience, that during adolescence teenagers undergo extreme physiological changes which demand more sleep than the average adult.
Exercise has many positive effects on learning, brain health, and mental health. That's why it is essential for adolescents whose brains are developing rapidly. School or extracurricular sports are a fun, social, and competitive way to introduce exercise into teenagers' routines. If your child is not so inclined, we've put together a few tips to get them started and introduce movement into their daily routines.
We have done the research for you and tapped into the latest studies in neuroscience to develop a simple and actionable morning routine proven to boost cognitive function, performance, and overall mood.
It can often feel as if there just aren't enough hours in a day. Kids have a lot on their plates: balancing school, homework, extracurriculars, hobbies, and finding time for friends. Without effective time management tools, managing their daily lives can become overwhelming. This can result in homework being handed in late, test dates forgotten, or assignments incomplete.
Research into goal-setting has suggested that there is a right and a wrong way to go about setting goals. By improving the way we set our goals and the systems we put in place to achieve them, we can increase our chances of actually succeeding.
Dr. Jeremy Schmahmann, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, was one of the first to suggest that issues in attention could be linked to the cerebellum. This was initially a surprise to brain scientists who had long known the cerebellum to control balance and coordination in the body. Recent studies show that strengthening the functionality of the cerebellum leads to improvements in attention, memory, and emotional regulation.
The benefits that BDNF has to offer are extensive. For those who struggle with learning and attention, such as children and adults with ADHD and other learning difficulties, tapping into the goldmine of potential that BDNF has to offer can be extremely beneficial. There is no complex solution or mind-boggling algorithm to stimulate BDNF production in the brain. The steps are simple, and we've outlined them for you.
Many children with ADHD, and other learning difficulties, feel different, alienated, and misunderstood. Vitamin Connection, or what Hallowell and Ratey call 'Psychosocial integration' is the antidote. It is a warm and safe environment that ought to be created at home, at school, and in organizations.
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