If you have a child entering middle school, let me tell you right now, hang on for the ride! Middle schoolers can be a bundle of hormones and energy that can annoy you, frustrate you, and test your patience daily.
Mark Twain agrees. His opinion was that When a child turns 12, he should be kept in a barrel and fed through the bung hole, until he reaches 16…at which time you plug the bung hole.
Although none of us would ever do that, we probably have wanted to on occasion!
Part of the problem is that if you’ve never had teens before, you may not be prepared for the changes that will occur as your child enters middle school. If that’s you, here are some things you can expect as your child embarks on adolescence.
Besides the raging hormones that result from the physical development of males and females, there are some other ways that your middle schoolers are adjusting to their growing bodies:
- Young teens will have growth spurts, which can be accompanied by “growing pains.”
- They need more rest as they expend a lot of energy growing.
- There is likely to be a gap between their brain and body development. The result is that many middle schoolers are more mature physically than they are emotionally and mentally.
- Some young teens and pre-teens may seem rather uncoordinated as they quickly grow in height and weight and must learn to adjust to the changes.
Mental and Emotional Changes
As kids enter into adolescence, they form their own identities and figure out how they relate to their peers. Kids want to understand where they fit in, so they begin to connect to a group of peers and disconnect from others. Look for these changes:
- Young teens will push adults away because they are striving to develop their independence.
- They will begin to understand abstract things, like power, love, and influence. They can become more socially conscious and aware of things happening in their community, nation, and world.
- They learn to argue and debate more.
- They are more likely to be exposed to bullying.
- They can become more moody, demanding more independence.
- They will begin to resist authority and opinions.
What Does Your Middle School Child Need from You?
As your child faces a whole bunch of physical, emotional, and mental changes, what do they need from their parents?
Patience–lots of it!
There is no doubt that middle schoolers have a lot of growing to do. Parents and caregiving adults should give them time and provide the emotional support they need to grow up. This requires extra patience during a phase of life that truly tests a parent’s self-control. If you are struggling with this, please reach out to me for a free consult to see how I can help you grow those patience muscles!
Adolescents will probably not follow your advice if you are not following it yourself. They need to see you learn from mistakes, ask for forgiveness, handle anger, and show courage. Your words always have more impact if you are walking the talk.
Feel Seen and Heard
Are you quick to listen to your young teen?
Being quick to listen means that you don’t interrupt your child as they speak and that you stop yourself from being so hasty to critique and judge their remarks. Being quick to listen means that you work at listening more than you speak. It means that when your adolescent is talking, you give them your full attention, no phone in hand. Your middle schooler needs to feel that they are heard, which in turn allows them to feel seen.
Another way to truly SEE them is to look for opportunities to enter their world and learn about them. For instance, playing their video games with them or opening your home to their friends. You should always be on a mission to seek to understand your child because that’s the first step in deepening your relationship with them. And, as Stephen Covey, autor of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says, seek to understand, THEN to be understood.
Parenting a middle schooler is much different than parenting a six-year-old. As your child enters middle school, you will begin to form a relationship with them that will hopefully lead to a healthy friendship with them as adults. This means recognizing that they need to grow their independence and that you may need to start letting go and allowing them to make more and more choices.
Parents may assume that teens don’t want them around and don’t have time for them as they get busy with their activities. But nothing could be further from the truth. Your teens still need quality time with you. Sometimes the annoying behavior of your young teen is actually them saying, “I still need you in my life, but I often feel that you are too busy!”
You will have to be more intentional about giving your young teen the quality time they need because they have friends, sports, and other activities to fill their time. Talk to your teen about what they’d like to do, and then put it on the calendar. Don’t make a habit of letting last minute “emergencies” cancel those plans. Be at their games, their recitals, and their performances–as many as you possibly can. They may not admit it, but they need you to be present!
If you have a middle school student at home, don’t adopt Mark Twain’s attitude of simply tolerating them until they grow up. (I have to believe he was joking when he suggested the barrel approach!) Instead, each day, find at least one thing to love and enjoy about your young teen. Pay close attention to their personalities and enjoy their successes and talents. They are in the early stages of becoming amazing adults with your guidance and you get to be on the front row to the miracle!