What’s harder for moms? The first day of kindergarten or the first day of middle school? My vote is middle school. In kindergarten, the teacher is there to dry tears and stick straws in juice boxes. In middle school, the kids have to take care of themselves. It’s scary for moms and I bet if there were a guide for how to prepare for middle school, we’d sleep a lot easier.
There is no guide because every kid’s middle school experience is different, but there are some lessons that pertain to all kids because, well, some things about adolescence are just universally true. So, moms, you can’t hand them an instruction manual, but you can make sure your kids know these 7 things when they start middle school.
1. I’m your biggest fan.
Experts say that between the ages of nine and 14, kids become more interested in being accepted, admired, and valued—but not just by peer groups. They care about being valued by adults, too. Yes, your 12-year-old cares if you believe in him!
As middle school starts, make sure your kids know you’re behind them, cheering them on through every test, try-out, and awkward moment. And part of being a super fan is not jumping ship when your kid messes up. Tell him or her you expect him to make some mistakes—and that it’s OK.
As middle school starts, make sure your kids know you’re behind them, cheering them on through every test, try-out, and awkward moment.
2. What’s cool is always changing, but doing what’s right never does.
I’m slow to adopt a new trend. I didn’t wear skinny jeans until a year after they became popular and now they’re on their way out. If our kids constantly chase an ever-changing standard, they’ll never settle into who they really are. So knowing how to prepare for middle school isn’t so much about figuring out how to be cool as it is figuring out how to be good, honest, and respectful to yourself and others.
It breaks a mom’s heart to see her daughter sucking in her belly or her son looking in the mirror trying to pray away his acne. As your kids start middle school, remind them that everyone has something they are insecure about. Middle schoolers will grow in confidence when you reassure them that they are amazing just as they are. Try iMOM’s 30 Day Encouragement Challenge to pour words of encouragement into your middle schooler.
4. If you want to talk, I’m willing to just listen.
Just when the problems get more complicated, our kids want to talk less. They are processing social pressures, current events, and questions about their identity, and they need an adult who is willing to be present and to listen. Before you chime in, pretend your kid is an airplane that needs a long runway to get up to speed. This might mean sitting in silence and then just asking questions once they start to share.
5. For girls: The way you treat your body is how others will treat it.
Whether your daughter thinks her body is priceless or worthless, others will follow suit. Not enough girls expect to be respected by boys (or other girls). If she values her body, that will affect the way she carries herself and dresses, and what she says yes or no to.
5. For boys: It’s tough being the biggest or the smallest.
In middle school, no one wants to stand out. If your son is growing at a different rate than his classmates, remind him that his body is uniquely made to grow in the time meant for him. He’ll catch up to others, or others will catch up to him.
A valuable step in how to prepare for middle school is identifying family values. When kids connect their individual identities to a family identity, they’ll have a guide for making decisions far beyond what happens inside your home. A Family Mission Statement is a great way to state as a family what you believe in, how you treat people, and what guides you in the choices you make.
7. Thinking everything is lame is exhausting.
What’s that fact about the number of muscles it takes to frown versus the number it takes to smile? Remind your middle schoolers that it’s going to be a long three years if they live under a dark cloud. Help them smile by laughing at yourself first, Mom.
What do you want your child to know before middle school?