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When I think back to middle school I remember it as being one of the most awkward times of my life!
I was goofy looking (at least I thought so) and shy. I was so socially awkward that I would cry when I got home from school every day. Fun times! I think most people have the same memories as I do.
So I guess that must mean it’s NORMAL to be that awkward and shy and terrified.
But try telling that to your tweens and teens today! Because this is the age where kids think that everything bad always happens to them and not to anyone else.
Again, this is normal!
Kids Still Need Discipline
Unfortunately, kids have to go through all these steps though in order to become a well rounded functioning adult. We all need to learn humility, self awareness and how to think outside our own little bubble.
As parents it is our responsibility to prepare our kids for the challenges they are facing. And let’s face it, middle school is one of the biggest challenges in a kid’s life.
Today I sent my third and last child off to middle school to 7th grade. It was bittersweet because I was so proud of her for handling it so well, yet I can’t believe my baby is in 7th grade!!! (insert a little mom tear here)
If you are reading this you obviously feel the same way. I guess middle school tends to make all of us cry at one point!
Confidence In Kids
The key to middle school is that kids need to be confident enough to just be themselves. But there aren’t a whole lot of confident kids in that age group.
So surviving middle school can be a little tricky. Boys and girls have a lot of different challenges to face.
Here I’m going to give you 10 different situations that could happen in middle school and how you can help your child navigate through these very important years.
10 Things That Happen in Middle School That Parents Should Be Aware Of
- Friendships~ When it comes to friendships, middle school is where kids start to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with their peers. Up until this point kids played with whoever their parents invited over to the house. Now is when kids start to decide for themselves who they want to be friends with. To start with it’s important to teach your children that if they want to have a good friend, they first need to be a good friend. And that as fun as having friends can be, it is still a relationship and you need to nurture your relationships. Kids need to treat each other with respect, be a good listener, be a shoulder to cry on and also be a partner in crime with (in a good way of course). Kids have to show their friends that they are honest, trustworthy, understanding and loyal. The more that friends can laugh together, the closer and more fun it will be. Friends need to be open to each other and be vulnerable. It’s important for kids to feel that they have someone in their life that gets them.
- Dating~ Believe it or not kids date in middle school. Some kids start early like 5th grade, although it’s really just a title, not an actual relationship. But most kids start dating around 7th grade. Until then they aren’t really mature enough or aware enough of what a dating relationship actually entails. I personally don’t think 7th graders should be allowed to date, but every parent is entitled to their own opinion. And the opinions on dating vary A LOT! The most important thing you can teach your child about dating is to have self respect. Your kids need to know what their boundaries are and what lines they are not willing to cross. And they need to refuse to let someone pressure them into crossing that line. And make sure you discuss with your child just what that line is. Let them know that their bodies belong to them and that they are the ones that have control over themselves so they owe it to themselves to take care of themselves. And no means no, no matter what!
- Puberty~ Mood swings, acne breakouts, hygiene issues and outbursts!It’s going to happen whether you are ready or not! Girls are going to get their periods, grow breasts, start shaving their legs and start liking boys. And the boys are going to get hairy, get erections, change their voice and start liking girls. And they both start spending tremendous amounts of time in the bathroom and in front of a mirror. There’s just no way around it. And if it’s stressful for us parents, you can imagine how your child must feel. They are experiencing enough new things at school and now their bodies are doing weird things! This is when good hygiene becomes extra important. My daughter-in-law is a 7th grade science teacher. She says the way some of the kids go to school smelling like can make a person’s eyes water. So be on top of your kid’s hygiene. Make them shower and wear deodorant every single day! I’ve always told my kids they don’t want to end up being called the smelly kid in class! No one wants to sit next to the smelly kid! Save your child the potential embarrassment and throw them in the shower every day!
- Increased Responsibility~ In middle school kids start taking different classes versus in elementary school where kids stay in one classroom with one teacher for the entire day. Kids don’t just have one homework assignment, they have four homework assignments. Their books and supplies are kept in lockers and kids need to learn to show up to their classrooms prepared and ready to work. No more story time or recess in middle school. Kids need to learn how to be responsible and multitask. It isn’t easy and can be very stressful and frustrating for an adult let alone a child just out of grade school. Be sure your child puts together a routine and a schedule. Kids need to keep planners, sticky notes and calendars. Teach them to pack their backpacks the night before so they don’t forget anything in the morning rush. And most importantly teach your child the lesson of not waiting to the last minute to start something. It never goes properly or smoothly and it isn’t their best work. Kids need an education these days, teach them to take advantage of the opportunities they have and make the most of them because they won’t last forever and it will affect their future if they start messing up their education. The school years are temporary, kids need to learn to both appreciate them and enjoy them while they have the chance.
- Accountability~ Even at age 12 or 13 kids can be held accountable for the things they say and do. They don’t get a free pass to put someone down or fail a quiz just because they are only in middle school. Kids can be cruel and words can hurt. And it’s our job to teach them why it’s not okay to behave badly, especially at someone else’s expense. The saying goes, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. If we could all repeat that to ourselves in our heads before we speak I think we would all be better people. Unfortunately though, not everyone listens to that little voice in their head. So all we can do is keep saying it and lead by example. Teach your child that kindness matters and always will. And make sure they know that their character is measured by what they do when no one is watching. It’s important to be able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and smile at what you see.
- Balance~ There’s no such thing as the perfect balance. There is just the perfect balance for you. And the same goes for kids. They have to figure out a way to balance a lot of homework, sports, extra curricular activities, friendships, relationships, body changes, social drama, social media, hormones, power struggles and the list goes on and on. It takes time to learn how to come up with a balance. Up until now mom and dad always handled things. Kids are just learning real life coping skills. Be patient and supportive and offer ideas. But they do have to start figuring some things out on their own and learn from their mistakes. We can’t always be there to hold their hands.
- Authority~ The teenager versus parent struggle is real. This is the age when kids begin to think they have all the answers . They think their parents are the last people on Earth that could ever understand what they are going through. Kids think they no longer should have a bed time, tech limits or restrictions on where they are allowed to go. They test their parents to see how much they can get away with. They don’t yet understand that we know what is best for them. The best thing a parent can do is be calm, firm and consistent. Remember that your child is not in charge. You are still the boss! Do not let your teen see your fear!
- Drama~ The level of drama at the middle school is out of control! It used to just be the high school that had all the drama. But these days kids are learning things and trying things earlier and earlier. Which means there are more things to argue over, be jealous of, be protective over and talk about. It used to just be rumors that would spread by mouth from person to person. Now with all the social media sites, kids can’t even breath wrong without someone jumping all over them for it and then they post negative things about them for everyone to read. There are the popular kids, the athletes, the smart kids, the troublemakers and the outcasts. Everyone gets a label. And everyone handles this attention differently. What you may not think is a big deal could be a major problem for your teen. So don’t be so quick to write off their mood. Talk to them, keep the line of communication open and let your child know that it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable a situation may make you feel to talk about, you still want them to come to you with anything that may be bothering them. My kids think I was never a kid and so I have no idea what they are going through. But they still know they can come to me no matter what. It’s not about your comfort, it’s about your child’s comfort. Drama brings forth a lot of worry and anxiety. My older daughter had a lot of anxiety going into the 8th grade. It started to affect every side to her and it took a long time to help her through it. To learn more about tween and teen anxiety check out my post on anxiety in middle school titled “How To Help Your Tween Or Teen With Anxiety.”
- Humility~ It takes a lot to admit when you are wrong. It takes even more courage to learn from that moment and choose a different path the next time. Learning that things may not always be the way you think they should be or that a person should feel the same way as you do can be humbling. No one likes to admit when they’re wrong. Especially not a kid who thinks their way is always the best way. Kids in middle school tend to put their foot in their mouths on a daily basis. Learning humility and eating humble pie is necessary for kids to experience. It will make them more aware of other’s feelings and show more compassion going forward. Encourage your kids to apologize when they are wrong. And teach them to accept sincere apologies that they receive. After all, no one is perfect, we all make mistakes.
- Peer pressure~ We all know what peer pressure feels like. Even as adults we feel pressured by our peers. And even we as adults sometimes do things we wouldn’t normally do or say something out of character as a way to impress another parent. Who doesn’t want to hang out with the popular kids? Kids are so easily persuaded at this age to try new things just to get attention from an individual or from a group of kids. Both girls and boys are pressured into having sex, drinking alcohol, smoking and now there’s vaping. And I don’t think I need to remind you of all the street drugs out there. Not to mention the medications kids are getting into at home. Temptation is everywhere. There is an angel and a devil on every kid’s shoulder and they don’t always have the strength and confidence to listen to the angel. It’s up to parents and teachers to hammer home the dangers of giving into peer pressure. Prepare your kids at home so they know how to handle a situation that may make them in over their heads. Teach them to respect themselves, their ideas, their beliefs and their bodies. Teach them to stand up for themselves and their friends and protect each other. And remind them that if they get caught doing something wrong then there will be consequences at home and privileges will be lost. Nothing stops a teenager in their tracks faster than when a parent threatens to take their cell phone away. I’ve done it many times. And I’ve also kept my kids’ cell phones in my room at night. Nothing good ever happens after 11:00! Even in the middle school! Your child should also know the difference between peer pressure and bullying. Bullying is meant to be mean while peer pressure is about fitting in. To learn more about bullying check out my post on bullying titled “How To Stop Bullying.”
Navigating middle school can be stressful, but it can also be a very fun time for kids and their friends.
My advice to you is to just show up as a parent. Ask any kid what the one thing they wish they could get from their parents and it would be attention.
Showing up everyday and being present when you are together is all any kid really wants from their parents whether they are in kindergarten, high school or middle school.
My son just graduated from college and joined the military. You know what he wanted for a graduation present? Dinner out with his family. Just me, my husband and the kids.
That was a testament to my parenting and confirmed to me that I have been doing something right all these years… I’ve been showing up!
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