Nutrition and the Teenage Brain

December 1, 2016

Dear Families,

Growing up presents all kinds of new opportunities. Good. Bad. Ugly. Our society offers all sorts of fun distractions in the process. Snapchat. Instagram. Twitter. Navigating the road of adolescents often proves to be as winding as the highways of the Colorado High Country. As parents, we find ourselves in a battle mentally and emotionally.  Students struggle to understand all that is occurring within them.  Sometimes joy and happiness fill the day. Other times, heartache and rage control every moment.

As I walked the halls this week, I noticed that transitions are beginning. Added to the transitions, the stress of the end of the semester consumes the thoughts of the students. Getting missing assignments turned in to push that grade away from the edge of the abyss weighs heavily on some. Others struggle to focus in class. The exhaustion of the time of year wears on others. The recent Thanksgiving break teases students as they see the light at the end of the tunnel. Winter Break can’t come soon enough.

The physical fatigue weighs heavily on the majority of my students. I would argue that it weighs heavier on them than any other individual. Perhaps, except a growing infant. During my graduate classes, I studied under one of the hardest professors on the planet. Maybe the universe. Really. Yet, I acknowledge that I never learned more than I did that semester.

Despite all I learned about human interaction from her, one of my greatest take aways came in the form of a nutritional tip. Consider first that the hormone levels of a maturing adolescent rival that of a pregnant female. Think about the nutritional demands on a pregnant female’s body. Now consider the emotional ups and downs of your adolescent. Consider their diet. Are they eating enough protein?

One of my assignments in Dr. Vaughn’s class required me to study the behavior of my students and the impact of nutrition on their behavior. I studied their behavior for a month. Each day after lunch, for two weeks, I provided them with the same snack. It was high in protein. Then, for the next two weeks, I provided them no snack. Throughout the month, I track classroom behavior episodes. I discovered that I had 78% more behavioral episodes when I did not provide the protein snack.  Nothing else in class changed.

My encouragement is this. You know when your student is not quite right. They just seem, off. Consider increasing their protein in the morning. Add a nutritious snack after school consistently during those “not quite right days.”  See if it improves their outlook.  

As the end of the semester draws to a close, I encourage you to consider the following reflection activity.  Ask your student to identify 3 things that went well this semester. I call those things, glows. Ask them to find 2 things they need to work to develop. What are their grows? Discuss steps that they could take to work to improve their grows. Celebrate their glows.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley

Food For Thought: What Students Really Need to Hear I would not say this any differently.

 

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