The trouble with middle school is that it is full of middle schoolers! Yes, middle school can be a time of awkwardness and self-doubt but it can also be a wonderful time of transformation toward independence. The amount of change, development and growth that happens during middle school is just as much as it was from birth to age three! Navigating this can be challenging for both teens and parents.
Here are five tips from the trenches, as a mom of teenage girls and middle school principal.
Advocating for oneself is an important skill your teen will learn over the next three years. Speaking up for themselves and learning to seek help and guidance from other adults is a critical life long skill. Here are a few examples:
- When your teen has a question about homework or grades, have them contact their teacher.
- If your student athlete is struggling with understanding playing time, encourage them to set up a meeting with their coach to find out what they can work on to improve.
- If your child feels wronged by another student guide them to seek help from the proper school official, teacher, coach, counselor or administrator.
In all these cases, guide your child, but let the message come from them!
Encourage Positive Risk Taking
Middle school, and life for that matter, will be much more enjoyable if students engage in the life and community of their school by trying something new. Here are a few ideas:
- Try out for a sport or play.
- Join a club.
- Get behind a charitable organization or activity at school.
- Make new friends (but keep the old!!).
- Take a different type of elective each year of MS.
Middle School Can Be Hard, Allow Your Teen To Struggle
This is very difficult for parents, sometimes even painful. However, the greatest lessons in life are learned from mistakes; which will not only help your child handle the bumps and bruises of middle school but will equip them to launch into adulthood when it is time.
Keep your communication and connection strong!
What is important to you such as academics, grades and homework is not as important to your middle school student. Your teen’s priorities will now become all things social: Friends, girls/boys and their extra-curricular activities. This is OK as it is part of normal adolescent development. Consider the following:
- Find creative ways to ask about their day beyond grades and homework.
- Become involved in your child’s social media.
- Engage with them if you allow them to have it and set very clear boundaries and expectations.
- Listen without judgment or reaction (this may make you cringe).
- Carve out time to spend together to be together and talk.
- Your teen still wants to spend time with you.
Relax…your child will not be denied a prestigious college education because of MS grades and behavior
How is that for liberating!?!? While all around good habits formed in middle school will have a lasting affect on their future education and life, your student’s middle school performance is of no interest to colleges and universities. This is 5th on the list for a reason, it supports tips 1-4! The stakes of life are actually quite low in middle school. Your child’s judgment, reasoning and reality are often skewed simply because their brain is still developing in those areas. Thank goodness none of us are judged based on our days from 6th-8th grade.
While middle school can be hard, it doesn’t have to be miserable. Be thoughtful about the messages you are sending your kids concerning this new adventure. Are you allowing your own anxiety to fill their heads with the idea that middle school is rough and you just have to suffer through it and try to survive? Or are you letting your kids know that it’s going to be exciting, energizing, challenging and new? Your kids will mirror the energy and attitude you project. As our mission statement at Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School says, Everyone Prepared! Everyone Saved! Remember these tips and prepare for middle school journey. Put on your seatbelt and enjoy the beautiful ride!