How to Make it Through Your Kid's Middle School Years
A local school counselor uses his years of experience to help you get your child from kid to teen.
Eventually, you are going to have to go through it. With preparation, planning and reasonable expectations, it can be easier to handle.
We’re not talking about military boot camp or even a colonoscopy. Welcome to middle school! Below are a few tips and reminders that might ease the pain of these notoriously challenging adolescent years.
1. Stay calm
If you have not seen it yet, you will soon. Your kid is poised to start saying and doing things that will tempt you to the dark side. Resist! Remind yourself that they don’t mean it and that they really do love you. They are going through a temporary stage that won’t last forever. They will eventually stop rolling their eyes, it just might take a few years.
2. Mistakes are good
Middle school is the minor leagues of life and mistakes will and should happen. Mistakes or failures are often the result of accepting new challenges or taking appropriate risks. This is how they learn and grow. How you respond to their setbacks makes all the difference. Your job is to help them look at the situation and figure out how to do it better the next time. Don’t say things like, “You are going to turn out just like your Uncle Eddie,” or “You are grounded forever.”
Predictable, clear and reasonable consequences create an environment that both comforts and reassures adolescents. They will never admit it to you, but your child, more than ever, needs and wants rules and expectations. When you make the effort to enforce rules and set expectations, it sends a message that you care.
4. Listen to them
As your child gets older, lots of new thoughts race through his mind. Slow down and take the time to listen to him. It can be hard to hear the story about a kid who stuffed 15 tater tots in his mouth at lunch when dinner needs to be cooked and you have work left to do. Make the time. If they know that they can talk to you about tater tots, they will also talk with you about the more serious stuff later.
5. Identity formation
Be patient and open minded about their interests. Share the hobbies and things you are interested in, while being receptive to other ideas as well. Know ahead of time that most things they try will not pan out into a lifelong interest. You can always sell the lacrosse stick, guitar and mountain bike to make the down payment on that mid-life-crisis Jeep you’ve been looking at. Finding a few areas of interest is key to self-esteem and a healthy picture of who they are.
If viewed through a lens of understanding, empathy and compassion, the antics of middle schoolers are absolute gifts of hilarity. Appreciate the mistakes and enjoy this stage of parenting!
Andy Mullen has been a middle-school and high-school counselor in Tredyffrin/Easttown School District for 16 years and just published Middle Schooled: Parenting Tips and Reminders to Keep You Smiling, a month-by-month guide to getting your kids through the tween years. It is available on Amazon.