The door just slammed and our eleven year old is furious with me for making her clean up her mess. In a few minutes, she will be back in a calm mood and will most likely apologize (she’s good like that!) It’s a rollercoaster of emotions over here and we are just entering into middle school. The attitude around middle school is usually pretty negative. Raging hormones, super awkward phase, you know what I am talking about! However, I have a group of girlfriends and out of eight of us, three are middle school teachers. They CHOOSE to work with this age and LOVE the work they do. Consider that.
As we prepare for a new chapter in our family, there have been a few things we have been doing to prepare. Just like reading the week by week pregnancy book to help prepare for motherhood, reading and learning about this new phase gives me a sense of control and comfort.
One of the most powerful things I have noticed happening with our daughter is her openness with me. It comes during low key times when we are hanging out. She’s been sharing feelings, asking important questions and trusting me with these nuggets of information (which is why I won’t share details here!) As a family, we have always been mindful of what values are important to us and worked hard to make sure those lessons are illustrated in our day to day parenting. Covid-19 closures has increased our family time. We are doing more together and I have seen this improve our relationships. I used to use television or screen time as my time to clean and cook dinner. Now, I cuddle up with the kids on the couch and watch their show with them. This subtle shift has made such a difference! We also got into the habit of biking and hiking together. Hiking especially leaves room for conversations because it’s just the kids and I in nature!
Our relationship is by no means perfect. Just as much as she is learning to navigate emotions, I am still continuing to revise my parenting habits for the better. I believe building a strong foundation for your relationship with your tween (soon to be teen) is most important. Teach them how to apologize and forgive and model this yourself. Teach them about character through life lessons and be sure to do this when they are in a teachable mood.
Speaking of relationship building, check out this free download, The Family Time Planner.
Lines of Communication
How do you and your middle schooler communicate? Are there things you can do to improve these lines of communication? I know I can bite my tongue more often and listen instead of asking questions and offering advice. I definitely have room to grow with our daughter. I do know that a few things have helped our lines of communication.
Journaling-We have a mom and me journal. We don’t write consistently, but enough to have formed a space where she can ask harder questions and I can apologize when my Ego gets in the way to do this in person.
Texting-We set our two oldest kids up to be able to text family and friends from our family ipad during Covid-19 closures to stay connected. I love texting with my own kids. It’s a great way to get to their level (I laugh at the ridiculous Giphys they send and try to match the hilariousness back) and connect in this newer way.
Email-All of our kids have their own gmail account. When we started virtual learning and I would receive emails about our 5th graders education, I would forward these emails to my daughter and make a note on what SHE needed to do to take action. I wanted her to take ownership of her learning as she would if she were in the classroom. I also had her continue to use a school planner with her virtual work, just as she would in school. I believe the routine of this daily planner work helps to create organizational skills and habits.
Depending on the individual in your home going to Middle School, this is a time when many families begin leaving their children home alone. We started doing this during the summer months for an hour at a time. Teaching our daughter the safeties of being home alone and what to do in case of an emergency have been helpful in helping her gain confidence in this new freedom!
What sort of freedoms and responsibilities does your middle school have? There is a significant difference in the traditional school model of leaving fifth grade and going into a new building for middle school. There are added responsibilities and helping your child to be prepared would be giving them practice ahead of time. Chores, independent learning during the summer months, following through with responsibilities that do not involve your help, and how about something as simple as having them make their lunch in the summer so they can do so in the fall!
An example of one of the new freedoms we’ve given to our daughter is riding her bike with friends with larger boundaries. Something so simple has given her so much joy! When our children see that we trust them, this enhances our relationship with them.
What do you and your middle schooler like to do together? I know, as they get older, kids start to back away from their parents. But what are the times you spend together that you sense they are happy and you are too? My daughter and I like to read side by side and talk about our books with each other. We started watching shows together during quarantine. We like to bike, hike and solve puzzles together too! Find something you can do together that brings you both joy and be intentional about finding time to do this frequently. There’s a quote I love
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This statement has been attributed to Carol Buchner, Maya Angelou, and others.
As you prepare to send your child off to middle school (or virtual middle school which we just found out we will be doing) consider preparing yourself and setting your child up for success (but know that there is no harm in failure when we learn from our mistakes and allow them to build resilience) read through this blog post for ideas. I found this article written by a pastor to also have some great advice.
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* Read my book review here of Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond and How Parents Can Help by Phyllis L. Fagell
Other Book Suggestions
* Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour Ph.D.
T.V. shows we have been enjoying together (these have age appropriate topics to start important conversations):
* Hollie Hobbie
* Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street
* Just Add Magic
* Babysitter’s Club-Raising Dion (scary elements that are Sci-Fi)