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Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development

Knowledge Share: Experiences & Resources from Hope House Staff


Brain Development: Communicating Powerful Info to Teen Moms

Parent Educator, Melinda Smith

One of my favorite classes to teach as the Parent Educator at Hope House is on brain development. The human brain is absolutely fascinating and understanding how it works makes for a better parent – at any age.

In fact, brain development is an important piece of the Nurturing Parentingcurriculum that we use. I personally get pretty excited about the topic and that enthusiasm tends to rub off on the young moms who take my class. 

In order to capture and maintain the attention of our young moms, I intentionally make the class on brain development both engaging and tactile. 

I start with some startling information… including the fact that the brain isn’t considered fully developed until age 25! Other strategies include tossing around a beach ball to visually illustrate how neurons and synapses function. 

We watch a video on Youtube that explains brain development – and one that shows the interior of the human brain. We also explore online resources such as  Zero to Three that features interesting resources – including a baby brain map! And we have some pretty tough discussions about what can happen to a child’s brain if they are neglected or abused. 

What I want our young moms to understand is that the first few years of brain development are critical, and as a parent their job is to do everything possible to stimulate and nurture their child’s brain while also avoiding harmful agents and situations, called teratogens.

The conversations we have during class around brain development are often powerful. 

For example, Brandi, one of our teen moms, had a significant epiphany during this class after sharing how her daughter had witnessed domestic abuse. Brandi knew that the situation was unhealthy for her daughter, but she wasn’t sure how it was affecting her.  After discussing the effects that specific agents (teratogens in this case) have on a developing brain, Brandi said, “I got my daughter out of that environment in time so she has a chance.” 

Other moms had a similar breakthrough when they took a hard look at what they had been exposed to in their own childhood. Poverty. Substance abuse. Divorce. Parent incarceration. 

Many of our teen moms came to realize that their struggles in school were not because they aren’t smart but were often due to harmful influences that had a significant impact on their own brain development and subsequent learning experience. Higher level thinking and planning can’t happen if you’re functioning in survival mode.  

My observation has been that with knowledge comes the desire for change. Armed with a better understanding of brain development, these young moms want to avoid situations they know are harmful so they can create a better life for their child. 

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Blog Archives

January 2018

Organizational Growth Cycles: Stages that Lead to a Mature Nonprofit - 01/23/2018

November 2017

Knowledge Share #19: Creating Unity: The Power of Mealtime - 11/20/2017

October 2017

Knowledge Share #18: The Power of Networking - 10/12/2017

September 2017

Knowledge Share #18: Engaging the Millennial Generation - 09/19/2017

August 2017

Knowledge Share #17: When the Dream Seems Too Big - 08/17/2017

July 2017

Knowledge Share #16: Personalized Learning - The Cornerstone of our GED Program - 07/18/2017

June 2017

Knowledge Share #15: Special Needs and Special Moms - 06/08/2017

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


Recent Comments

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Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home ea ...   [more]

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Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home each ...   [more]

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Lisa Steven said: Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms ...   [more]

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