Ahhh middle school. You can almost smell the hormones and millions of “shiny” distractions as you try to get your child’s attention. Middle school tries the patience of even the most saintly parent. It’s hard because you know the whole puberty thing is not your child’s fault – yet, they still come home with a fully rotating head that shows a new mood with each rotation. It’s exhausting. From your child’s end of things, it’s also exhausting.
Suddenly, they have 7-8 teachers, instead of one. And, each teacher is bound and determined to make your child suddenly independent and accountable. Noble goals on the teacher’s behalf but, perhaps, a bit optimistic. It’s your job as a parent to find the balance that works best for your child. But, how?
3 Unconventional Hacks To Hold A Middle Schooler’s Attention:
1. Getting Through to Your Middle Schooler. When you need to get a message through to your 11-14 year-old, think side-by-side. Middle school kids are already self-conscious. If you want to talk about something that might feel confrontational or awkward, you’ll have better luck with your child in the passenger seat as you drive to the grocery store or whatever your destination might be.
Put all phones away. Turn the radio off. And, as you stare at the road intently, dive in to whatever the subject is. (This works best when you have at least 15-30 minutes of drive time.) If they’re not having to stare at your scary-parent-face while you talk about whatever (why they cannot manage to turn in homework, why they keep turning in blank quizzes, why they refuse to use deodorant … add your own dilemma!) It’s surprising how much ground you can cover without tears or shouting in this manner. (If driving isn’t a big part of your life, set your child up next to you at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables – even if you don’t need the vegetables immediately – they freeze well! It’s the side-by-side part that counts.)
2. Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. Now is the time to let your child test their independence (think about it, they’ll be driving in a few short years!). Give them some freedom. When they goof, reign them back a bit and start over. Your job is to raise an independent, young adult who is not calling you multiple times a day from college. Guide them gently and let them create their own plans for finishing a project. At the same time, step in if you see things going badly. Don’t do the work for them but, help them figure out a better plan.
3. Get Involved. This is tricky territory. There is a fine line between trying to be a “cool” parent and being a parent who has a clue. You want to be the latter. No parent of a middle schooler is cool. EVER. Still, make it a point to know what they’re looking at online via their phones and your home computer. Every now and then point out a new app or website that they might find useful. Just curb your enthusiasm. One way to approach it is to casually ask, “What do you think of ….?” They’ll appreciate being asked for their sincere input and they’ll (never tell you) be impressed that you even know such a thing exists. For middle schoolers there are a lot of special education resources that are helpful whether or not they have a learning disability. Many of them focus on organizational topics – anything from reminders to keeping a calendar. Building those types of skills during this period is a big boost for high school and college.
If your child has special needs, supplemental learning through Special Education Tutoring may be able to help. A free, one-on-one consultation with a special education tutor will help greatly in understanding if this is the best option for you and your child.
Being the parent of a middle schooler is challenging. You might have the best kid in the world and you’ll still find yourself scratching your head wondering what happened to that great 9 year-old. Patience. Creativity. More patience. You’ll survive. They’ll come through it as well. Know you’re not alone and that there are ways to make it more tolerable.