Middle school can be a tough time for everyone. These years are when your kids will start to build their own identity and become more independent. And while this is all great, it can also be challenging. Kids might be trying to navigate their way through the social hierarchy without you by their side. They might have to balance academics with extracurriculars or maybe they're just feeling homesick. No matter what's going on, here are five ways that you can help your child adjust to middle school.
1. Give your child a voice
It's easy for kids to hide how they really feel. Talk to your child openly about what's going on in their day and what they're struggling with. Listen to their concerns and let them know that they can always come to you for help. Let them know that they're allowed to be happy, angry, frustrated, and tired. It's also important to ask your child what their interests and goals are so you can support them in their goals.
Once your child enters middle school, they'll likely be getting more involved with things like clubs and teams. This means that they'll be spending a lot of time with different people. Ask them to describe who the most important people in their life are and why. Discuss how important it is that they choose good friends who will help them make good decisions. Make it clear that if they ever have trouble with any of their peers, they should feel free to come to you.
2. Balancing Academics with Extracurriculars
As a parent, you want your child to feel like they have a life outside of school. When your child starts middle school, encourage them to try out different extracurricular activities. There are a lot of benefits to participation in extracurricular activities such as doing better in school, helping them make friends, and learning leadership and independence skills.
Continue to support your child by helping them set healthy boundaries, creating a work schedule, and managing their time so that it doesn't get out of control. Even if you're not on board with the extracurriculars that your child chooses to join, remember that it is a good thing to get out of the house, have fun with other kids, and to explore different interests and skills.
3. Building Self-Confidence
Middle school can feel a little daunting when your child is still trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in socially. They may experiment with their own identity and try on different personas. If you find them focusing on what others think of them, help them focus on their unique strengths. Helping your middle schooler develop self-confidence can be a delicate balance, and it will depend on your kid's personality. For some, building self-confidence means talking a lot and getting involved with a variety of activities. For others, it's about avoiding anxiety and embracing their true identity. Just know that it's a process that you have to help them navigate.
"Developing a sense of confidence takes patience, encouragement, and a lot of growth as a child navigates their way through the transformation," said Stephanie Bigler, author of How To Be Myself: 4 Steps to Reinventing Yourself for a Modern Teen. "It's best to give your kids some space to explore all the wonderful and often unexpected places they can find their own self-worth."
4. Managing emotions
It's important to teach your child how to deal with their emotions and figure out a way to turn negative feelings into positive ones. In general, it's important to be compassionate, understanding, and supportive of your child. But sometimes, those emotions can get the better of them.
If your child is having a hard time dealing with certain situations, encourage them to see a counselor or go to their school counselor. Be an open ear and encourage your child to talk to you about their feelings and what is happening in their world. Don't jump to conclusions or rush them out of the room when they're having a tough time.Let them know you're there to listen.
5. Make Time for Family Dinners
Middle school can be tough when it comes to eating because kids are at school all day. When they get home, they might just want to rush off to spend time with their friends. You might be tempted to let them, but research has found that family dinner time can help promote healthy eating habits and help kids connect with their families.
Plus, if your child struggles with changes and transitions, then family dinners are a great way to help them adjust. When you focus on building healthy relationships, your kids are more likely to adapt to the changes that they face in their new surroundings. It's also a good way for you to spend time with them after a long day at work. Plan a family dinner at least one night a week so that you can catch up with each other and have some quality time together.