Are you a parent of a middle school student? Do you constantly battle it out with your tween or young teen? I work with this age group regularly, both in individual counseling and in group counseling. This age group is amazingly awesome to have in the office, best of both worlds – the playfulness of a child and the growing maturity of a teenager. We don’t know if we’ll get the sweet innocence of a child or the lashing out of a teenager but either way I love them unconditionally.
Here are some common themes that middle school students wish their families or parents knew.
- Your tween or young teen might be moody. While it’s important to set a level of respect in the house, as their guardian, do not take it personally. We all have bad days. Your tween is still learning coping strategies of what to do when they feel that way. Give them the space to do that.
- Explain why consequences are being placed, or why you are upset. Believe it or not, while you may feel like it’s common sense, your tween or young teen may not totally understand what is going on. Connecting the dots is a little challenging for this age group. Having the conversation while calm, allows the teen to understand it on a deeper level. Having rules and consequences posted in your house can also help them see the connection.
- Respect them. While they might be your kid, they are their own person, with opinions and values different from yours. Your comments will stick with them whether they are positive or negative. Be remembered as the parent who supported their adolescent. Show them that THEY are valued, even if you disagree with what that is.
- Show interest in them. Laugh at their jokes or be involved in the story they are telling by asking questions. They do care about what you have to say and how you respond to them. Let them know when you like something about them. Sometimes that might be just what they need to snap out of the funk.
- Hang out with them. While sometime we may not feel like we have anything in common, just spending time with them is vital. It doesn’t have to be a large event. The simple boring moments are what this age group remembers the most. Parents can be watch the baseball game on tv, or it can be stopping by their school at lunch to eat lunch with them or even helping them with their chores while catching up on their week. When you put down your screens or put aside your busy life, they will see that they are important, that they are valued.
- While the tween or young teenager won’t admit it, they still need their guardians to help them self regulate – whether that be with time they spend in front of screens, social times with friends, unhealthy foods, etc. This age group is still learning, and still need their guardians to be loving and set boundaries. They might not appreciate it in the moment, but one day they will.
- One last thing, you do not need to “save the day” every time your tween or young teen is in trouble. Allow your tween or young teen to turn in an incomplete assignment or project or allow them to make choices that might be different than you would make yourself. They need to experience those moments in order to learn from them.