Understanding the Unique Struggles of a Middle Schooler
November 19, 2021
Middle school is an exciting time filled with change, self-discovery, wild hormones, and ever-changing self-identities. With one foot in childhood and the other in adolescence, we know that children at this age begin to connect more with their peers and less with their parents.
Middle schoolers gain more independence with each passing day as they grow into teenagers and adults and prepare to enter the real world. This is also the time when children need their parents most. Middle schoolers face a whole new level of responsibility academically, socially, and emotionally, and as parents, it’s our job to help them through it.
Here are some tips to help parents and caregivers face the middle school years with confidence:
Be present and engaged. Middle schoolers are notorious for wanting alone time in their rooms and not talking to their parents. Be consistent. Ask your middle schooler meaningful questions about their day and their lives. If they open up to you at a less-than-ideal time, be fully present and engaged in that moment with them.
Have patience and understanding. Middle schoolers are faced with challenges including peer pressure and are often presented with adult choices at a time when their decision-making skills have not quite matured. This can be a lot for them to handle and can lead to anxiety. Parents may find the need during this time to help them manage those feelings of anxiety and identify the causes.
Offer gentle but firm guidance. Help your middle schooler make good choices and reassure them that it’s okay to make mistakes. Help them recognize that making mistakes is how we learn and grow, and that they are not alone. Everyone makes mistakes.
Trust your instincts. A strong parent-child relationship is critical during the middle school years so your child knows you love, respect, and believe in them. If you sense something is off with your middle schooler, talk to them. Let them know you believe in them and care deeply about them. Middle schoolers face so much pressure to be popular, excel academically, and participate in sports and activities that it doesn’t leave much time for them to still be a kid.
Here are some tips on engaging your middle schooler on their terms:
- Allow your middle schooler some time to themselves after school before asking them about their day because they are exhausted.
- Take the small stuff seriously, because to your middle schooler, it’s a big deal. Always lend a listening ear and offer compassion.
- Be clear that your love is unconditional and they can always come to you if they are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, or need help.
- Don’t put the burden on your middle schooler to ask you for help.
- Let your child unload their complaints of the day on you so they can go back to school the next day feeling unencumbered.
Hug your middle schooler and continue to be a loving and constant voice in their lives—even when they act like they don’t need it.
For more helpful tips, check out our post on 5 Ways to Help Children Cope with Stress. For more information about our Elementary and Middle School, or Preschool programs, please contact our Admissions team at 410-312-5233.