Like many parents, I’d look into the big, round eyes of my little toddlers and dread the days they became teenagers. At two months or six years, we think we can protect our children and hold onto their innocence. But the thought of middle school, adolescence, interest in sex, attitudes, pimples, cliques, experimenting, drivers ed, and well, we don’t want those years to come.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to communicate with middle schoolers will vary depending on the individual child. However, here are a few tips that may help you better connect with your middle schooler:
- Show interest in their lives and activities. Ask them about their day, their hobbies, and their friends.
- Be patient and understanding.
- Avoid lecturing. Instead, try to have open and honest conversations with your middle schooler about the topics that are important to them.
- Be a good role model. Your child will likely be watching and learning from your example, so it’s important to set a good one.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Let your middle schooler know that they can always come to you with any concerns or questions they may have.
Middle school can be challenging, so it’s essential to be there for your child when they need you.
How do you talk to a middle-schooler?
- Understand the developmental phase
- Take the small stuff seriously
- Find a neutral zone
- Know your triggers
- Be clear your love is unconditional!
- Do not put the burden on them to ask for help. One middle school girl shared, “We’ll always say, ‘I’m fine,’ ” she says. “It’s the biggest lie we tell.” Once a child denies being upset, they may feel they’ve lost the chance to ask for support. Instead, she advises, “Hey, I can tell you’re a little off. Let’s talk today.”
- Experiment with different forms of communication.
- Treat arguing and complaining as productive: Rather than challenge or question their complaints, let them unload and then ask, “Do you want my advice, or do you just need to vent?”)
- Be available and attuned but let them have some space.
Try to be available as much as possible when they come home from school or wish to communicate with you. If you cannot be there physically, be available via text or phone at those times. However, don’t hover; allow them some peace and quiet first. Their brain has been working all day, so they require some rest just like we do. As a result, they may not want to converse when they walk in the door.
This is also an excellent time to listen for clues about what might be happening with your child—without being overly nosy. You can say, ‘It sounds like something might be up. I’m here if you want to talk about it. But don’t interrogate them. You want to be available without being intrusive.
And if they do open up, resist the urge to fix things or offer solutions. Experts suggest that the biggest mistake parents make is trying to problem-solve. Instead, middle-schoolers just want someone to listen and say, “That sounds tough kiddo, “
How can I be a better parent to my middle schooler?
You can do many things to help your child succeed in school. Some things include attending Back-to-School Night and Parent-Teacher Conferences, visiting the school and its website, supporting homework expectations, sending your child to school ready to learn, instilling organization skills, teaching study skills, knowing the disciplinary and bullying policies, and being involved in your child’s education. You can also join the PTA or other school organizations, volunteer in the classroom or on field trips, and support school fundraisers.
What are some problems middle schoolers face?
Transitioning from elementary school to middle school is probably the most significant sociological change humans go through in their lives. It’s not just a change of schools, but it’s also the beginning of hormonal changes, and for a lot of kids, it’s the first time they have to deal with locker rooms, social cliques, and more responsibility in all areas of school and home.
Here are a few specific problems middle schoolers face today:
- Loss of Routines and Structure
- Changing Learning Formats
- Strained Relationships
- Lack of Extracurricular Activities
- Virtual Socializing
- Time Management
How do you communicate with middle schoolers?
In conclusion, remember to keep the lines of communication open with your middle schooler and be available to listen when they want to talk. Try not to interrogate or problem-solve, but simply offer support. Be involved in their education and extracurricular activities, and help instill good study habits and organizational skills. Finally, know that the transition to middle school is significant and that many problems are just a normal part of growing up.