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Jennifer Powell-Lunder | PACE UNIVERSITY

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"Wy Daily" featured Jennifer Powell-Lunder, adjunct professor of developmental psychology at Pace University in "Are lockers helping or hindering middle school students? Turns out it’s both"


"Wy Daily" featured Jennifer Powell-Lunder, adjunct professor of developmental psychology at Pace University in "Are lockers helping or hindering middle school students? Turns out it’s both"

While lockers help take weight off students' backs, they can also weigh them down with anxiety

While lockers mean middle school students don’t have to carry heavy textbooks on their backs, they can also create anxiety and other issues.

“The thing that people don’t realize is that lockers are the largest source of anxiety for students transitioning into middle school,” said Jennifer Powell-Lunder, adjunct professor of developmental psychology at Pace University. “When you talk to students, you realize it becomes the number one concern.”

York County Public Schools hasn’t made keeping backpacks in lockers an official policy but it is an enforced procedure, said York County Public Schools spokeswoman Katherine Goff.

In Williamsburg James City County middle schools, the procedure differs at each location but it is the common practice to keep the backpacks in lockers throughout the day, said WJCC spokeswoman Eileen Cox.

But lockers can contribute to an already stressful time for a middle school student because they are having to learn how to open their lockers and worrying about having enough time in between classes to transition.

“Everyone goes back and says how much middle school sucked,” Powell-Lunder said. “The word for that age is ‘awkward,’ and there are some students that already have issues with anxiety and lockers can just add to that.”

Age of anxiety

Middle school is a time where many girls are hitting puberty and not having access to a backpack can cause a lot of issues, Powell-Lunder said.

Girls at the schools are allowed to carry small purses and pencil pouches, but there remains some anxiety.

“Girls at this age are sensitive and may be embarrassed carrying something around that makes it obvious what they’re hiding. It’s like pointing a big finger at them,” Powell-Lunder said. “Girls who develop early on are already more likely to experience depression and anxiety so this could add onto that.”

But lockers help to provide a sense of growth for students as they transition into middle school, Goff said. It can give them the feeling of having a private space of their own and helps to provide a schedule and routine as they move throughout the day because they are planning what they need at certain times.

If a student comes to class with a backpack, teachers remind them to take the bag and secure it in their lockers, Goff said. Currently, there have not been any issues with students not complying to the procedure so teachers have not had to take any disciplinary action.

Keeping backpacks in lockers also ensures that students don’t have to carry around a heavy weight on their backs which can be detrimental to children’s growth at that age, Goff said.

“The teachers try not to have them carry a lot of stuff around and keeping their backpacks in their lockers is a helpful way to do that, I think,” said Patricia Terrill, who has two children in York County schools. “This way students can bring only what they need for certain parts of the day as opposed to a full day’s load.”

Powell-Lunder agrees there are positives to having lockers because they give students the chance to have a space of their own. But she also believes that lockers and their rules are a subject that should be considered in conjunction to the psychology of middle school students.

“Of course there need to be rules, but we need to give students the ability to feel autonomous,” she said. “Lockers are great to give kids a sense of space but there needs to be a moderation when it comes to setting down the rules as well.”

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"PressConnects" featured Dyson Professor Jennifer Powell-Lunder in "Hang up the game controller: How to press pause on 'Fortnite' as the school year begins"


"PressConnects" featured Dyson Professor Jennifer Powell-Lunder in "Hang up the game controller: How to press pause on 'Fortnite' as the school year begins"

How to limit game play

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, an adjunct professor in graduate psychology at Pace University and a clinical psychologist working with tweens, teens and young adults, specializes in social media and technology. Many of her patients — across all ages — play Fortnite. But, what if excessive game play interrupts a child's life? Here are five tips from Powell-Lunder on how to limit Fortnite usage. 

*Set limits. Children need limits and look to their parents to teach them how to set them.

*Work with children when setting limits. For some kids, it's helpful to take a break after school and play a game or two. For others, they might work better doing homework immediately after school and play games in the evening. Ask them what works best.

*Use Fortnite's structure to set limits. Since there is a finite number of time in each game, instruct them to hang up the controller after they finish a certain number of games.

*For kids who are impulsive, shut down the modem or take away the controller altogether. This may prevent children from sneaking out to play the game late into the evening.

*Make it clear that there are consequences if the rules are broken. If a child is playing the game when they are instructed not to, use consequences.

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"ABC News" featured Dyson adjunct Professor Jennifer Powell-Lunder in "What parents and teachers can do to not make the 7th grade the worst ever"


"ABC News" featured Dyson adjunct Professor Jennifer Powell-Lunder in "What parents and teachers can do to not make the 7th grade the worst ever"

..."In sixth grade, they coddle them. In eighth grade, they are getting ready to go to high school so they are really elevated," said Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Pace University in New York. "In seventh grade, no one really cares. You're thrown to the wolves. They really are in such an in-between age."

Parents of seventh-graders likely expect their kids to step up, too, and they are usually surprised when they don't -- or don't even seem to care.

"It's the age of snarky," Powell-Lunder said. "They tend to be more irritable, kind of touchy. They don’t believe they are a reflection of their parents, but that their parents are a reflection of them."

That means the potential for their parents to embarrass them in front of their almighty peers is at an all-time high. It's because kids at this developmental stage put more weight into what their peers think and where they fit in.

Give them autonomy, not independence

At the same time, teens and tweens still crave structure and boundaries, Powell-Lunder said.

They may be looking for more autonomy from their parents, but they are not yet ready to be fully independent. Setting limits, especially when it comes to technology, is important, she said.

"A lot of time parents want to be the 'nice' parent, but kids need rules," Powell-Lunder said.

Boundary-setting starts with knowing your child and what their individual needs are, as well as acknowledging that those needs change as they get older, Fox said.

"Mom and dad have to take a closer look at the children sitting in front of them," she said. "They are changing so rapidly. If you don’t keep up, you won’t know how to communicate or listen to them."

Don't try to fix everything

With rules, come consequences. Both Fox and Powell-Lunder said parents have to let their middle-schoolers fail sometimes.

"Let them take responsibility for being a full-time student," Fox said. "That’s a contract between student and teacher -- unless you’re planning to go to college with them."

"Be supportive but don't try to fix everything," Powell-Lunder said.

"Over-functioning parents will raise under-functioning kids," Fox added.

Practice what you preach

Kids at this age are also learning a lot by observing the adults around them.

Be careful what you're modeling to your kids, whether it's screaming and yelling or being tethered to your smartphone.

"Show you have more self-control than your son or daughter," Fox said.

Powell-Lunder tells teachers: "Teach by example."

Organization helps

At a time when kids seem the most disorganized, being organized seems to count the most.

Powell-Lunder, who is a big believer in the "K-8" model because it "smooths out the rough edges," said educators in middle schools need to be more understanding of seventh-graders and teach them the organizational skills they lack. Posting homework in one place certainly helps, she said.

Fox frowns on too much homework because she said it turns some middle school students off from education. This age group still needs time to pursue passions, she said, be with family and just daydream.

Talk less, listen more

Both Powell-Lunder and Fox encourage parents to show more empathy for what their children are going through.

"Ultimately, you want less stress and tension between parent and child, and more compassion and conversation and understanding," Fox said. "They are not getting it from their peers or their own internal monologues where they are putting themselves down. We are just adding to the chorus if all we’re doing is finding fault."

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