Help your "tween" enjoy their time in middle school.Credit: www4.nau.edu
As a school secretary I watched as children moved from grade to grade, advancing school years. As they moved from elementary school into middle school I watched them struggle with the many changes that seemed to happening to each one. For some, it was major changes while others slipped easily and quietly into their teens and adolescence. As they reach the middle school age their bodies are developing, their view of the world in greatly expanding, and their independence is growing.
For the first time, these kids are expected to organize themselves during the school day. All of a sudden they have personal school lockers to store their belongings when they arrive at school instead of hanging coats on hooks outside of the classroom. They also go from having one teacher in one classroom to having a class schedule where they change classes and classrooms every period of the day.
Middle school age kids want to fit in with the crowd and sometimes they will defy family rules to do it. When you mix all of these factors together, you have children that are unsure of their paths and countless parents at their wit’s end!
As a parent, you are excited to have your child growing and maturing and you notice that there is a huge difference between fifth and sixth grade. Many parents and counselors will tell you that one of the biggest differences between elementary school and middle school is that students become more interested in their relationships with their peers. This will often foster rebellion from the child, and at times, you will find that their social relationships become more important than their schoolwork.
It is crucial to keep lines of communication open with children during their middle school years. It is during this time that many kids may be pressured to try and use drugs, enter into sexual relationships, or engage in other risky behaviors. It is so important during this time that a parent let their middle school student know how much they love and care for them. Kids should hear, “I love you, I care for you, and I’m here for you all of the time.” Talking to your kids whenever the opportunity arises is important. Talking to them while riding in the car, at mealtime and at bedtime are great times because the pressures of the day aren’t as intense for them. Of course, it you have opened up the lines of communication early on in their lives it will make it easier as they get older.
Sometimes it will make it easier if you think back to your own middle school years and put yourself in that time and at that age. Sometimes as parents, we think our kids are growing up way too fast and we want to bury our heads in the sand. The best defense is to be informed with the information and content of what is going on in school for them. You also have to build a level of trust with your child that lets them know that, “You can tell me anything, and it’s not going outside of our own home and you will not be judged for telling me.”
Help your child develop confidence and this will help them overcome negative peer pressure. Far too often when a young person has low self-esteem, they begin to act out in a variety of ways. Usually poor academic performance, adopting a “bad kid” attitude, eating disorders, and overt sexualization in manifested. As students enter into adolescence, appearance becomes more and more valued.
It is important for parents to guide their children into making proper attire choices, even though this may cause a few clashes between mothers and their children, especially their daughters. Teaching children what is appropriate is important and parents will need to set the standards on modesty. Deciding together on boundaries in modesty for their apparel and what you consider appropriate and acceptable could be the best solution for all. You will also need to make decisions on logo wear because there are many makers of teen fashions that represent logos that are not always appropriate and even acceptable to wear at school.
You should always focus on their strengths. Parents of middle school children can help them fee confident and happy by helping them discover their own talents. Each parent should know the strengths and their children and to encourage him or her in those areas. Not every child is going to be a superstar with his or her schoolwork but he or she might be a superstar in athlete. Not every child will be a superstar athlete, but he or she might be a superstar musician, dancer or artist. Parents should encourage their children to become involved in various types of activities. Be cautious though that you don’t over-schedule them in your determination to help them develop their talents and to help them shine at something that they are good at and enjoy.
During the middle school years, kids discover that they like to “hang out” together and if they find that they are spending time with their friends at sporting activities or other meaningful activities they can hang out and develop their talents.
The middle school years can be tough on kids, but with love and understanding, parents can make them a happy time of discovery and growth for their children. Be there for your child. Celebrate their successes and help them through those tough times. Don’t try to mold your child into a “mini-me” version of you. Give your child a bit of freedom, but always remain aware of what he or she is doing, what he or she enjoys, and who their friends are. Set a positive example by taking care of yourself and presenting a positive image to the world. Be the example they will want to follow in life in a positive way. Make a difference and teach values and standards and live them yourself.
Teach your child to be the best he or she can be. Here are few tips that should be taught and expected of your child.
- Treat friends with kindness and always be courteous.
- Join a variety of activities to find out where you shine.
- Dress appropriately, covering up to command respect from others.
- Focus on eating healthy, nutritious meals, rather than on body weight.
- Don’t be afraid to share your worries with your parents.
- Try many activities to discover different areas you excel in.
- Don’t bully or tease others to get attention.
- Focus on health and nutrition, rather than on becoming muscle-bound.
- If you ever find yourself in a situation you’re not comfortable in, don’t be afraid to call your parents.
- Ignore the video games and computer for a while and talk to your parents.