When Our Most Intelligent Children Suddenly Shift: A Troubled and Tender Time for Boys and Girls Between 10 and 13

Over the many years I have been helping families with a history of high achievement and passion for learning, I have noticed an important pattern which I call the "Sudden Shift."
Over the many years I have been helping families with a history of high achievement and passion for learning, I have noticed an important pattern which I call the “Sudden Shift.”

While all children naturally change when they reach the threshold of puberty, usually around the ages of 10 to 13, some children, particularly those with very high IQs experience profound psychological changes brought on by a mix of physiological triggers including changes in hormones, as well as environmental evolution at home and in school.

The “perfect child” during their first decade can quickly become alienated, depressed, angry and unpredictable. This change can seem to happen overnight, confusing and alarming parents. Academic performance can drop off from one semester to the next; the child can lose attention, be unable to focus, fail to remember even simple ideas, be challenged with time management, and even begin regressing as a means to control what feels out of control to the child.

Parents who are taken by surprise are often unsure how to respond themselves, and can inadvertently make the environment worse, causing even more alienation within the family, and a sadness and fear that can begin to impact other family members.

What are the signs of “Sudden Shifts” for these children in transition to young adulthood?

1. Anger outbursts
2. Explosive statements
3. Depression
4. Avoidance of friends
5. Sleep disturbance
6. Falling grades
7. Trouble fitting in at school

How serious is this shift?

Should we simply assume these boys and girls will outgrow this behavior? Is this behavior “just a phase?”

Or should parents pay close attention and recognize that left untreated, these “Sudden Shifts” can be signs of more profound potential psychological implications ahead, some which lead to lifelong disorders?

The risk of doing nothing is very real. These children are often the teenagers who turn to dangerous behavior, including substance abuse, to address their pain. How many more stories must we hear about extremely intelligent young people from good families and affluent backgrounds becoming addicted to opiates, which cause a downward and often irreversible spiral into an adult life of sadness and complications?

There are three things parents can do when they recognize a “Sudden Shift” in their children.

EDUCATE YOURSELF – This is the first step to becoming aware of all that may be impacting your child’s change in behavior, without blaming either the child or yourselves.

EXAMINE YOUR ENVIRONMENT – The second step involves taking a fresh look at your environment and make adjustments to the way you live that may improve your child’s sense of comfort and acceptance.

PROFESSIONAL HELP – The third step involves seeking out professional help from counselors or therapists who have an expertise in working with children in adolescence moving into young adulthood, as they have seen and helped many families like yours through what can be a most terrifying time – helping turn those magical childhood years tender again.