Do you have kids in middle school? It’s the worst, right?
I mean, even science says so. Research from Arizona State University found that mothers of middle-school children, between 12 and 14 years, were most stressed and depressed, while mothers of infants and adults had better well-being.
I get this because I have three daughters in middle school right now. That is a whole lot of puberty in my house.
But even though it’s hard to parent middle schoolers, we all remember how tough it was to be a middle schooler.
In the beginning, my kids and their friends worried about remembering their locker combinations or receiving tardies because they were late to class. But as time goes on, their worries evolved too.
5 worries that consume middle school girls and how parents can help diffuse them:
1. Standing out
While adolescent girls struggle to discover their authentic selves, they also stress about standing out in any way. Especially when it’s something outside of their control. This could mean being the tallest, struggling in school, having bright red hair, receiving too many accolades for academic success, developing acne, or anything that makes them feel different than their peers.
As parents, we need to continue to focus on their strengths and provide our children with role models who embrace their differences.
2. Being accepted by their friends
Let’s be honest: middle school girls care more about their friends’ opinions than really anything else. Middle school can be a particularly difficult time for girls, especially because of the frequent rotations into and out of friend circles, the emergence of strong personalities, and newly formulated cliques and social hierarchies. Many tween teens feel an incessant need to keep connected to friendships, even unhealthy ones. That means they do stuff that their parents don’t understand.
Parents shouldn’t engineer their middle schooler’s personal relationships. But mom and dad should encourage their daughter to participate in activities that will help them meet new people and build upon their current friendships. But be wary of talking negatively of a friend you disapprove of as it’s always best to let your child discover that for herself.
3. Disappointing their parents
Young teens often start acting like they don’t care about what their parents think. In reality, it is quite the opposite. They often ache for their parents’ approval and long to hear they’ve done a good job. This includes school, athletics, social situations or simply completing a task.
When a pubescent girl hits the surly, moody stage, however, offering praise can be difficult for mom or dad, even though it’s the most important time to provide it. All kids need to hear affirmations from their parents, but it’s especially significant for young teen girls who are bombarded with negative messaging, it can be the only time they receive it.
4. Being self-conscious about their bodies
Walk into any middle school, and you will notice that some girls look like full-fledged women while others still appear in grade school. Adolescents are in constant wonder about what their bodies may do next. Will that pubic hair ever stop growing? Will my breasts get bigger? When will I get my period? Ugh, another zit on my chin! Is that my BO?
As parents, it’s our job to help them to understand what is going on with their bodies and to explain that development is different for every person. Warning: don’t focus too much on her particular body, because no young girl wants to be noticed for what she doesn’t like about her appearance.
5. Making the grade in academics
Middle school is often the first time kids get segmented into different groups for academics. While some girls may be used to getting top marks, a more challenging curriculum can stress a young girl out.
Parents need to remind their daughter that everyone has different strengths. The focus needs to be on effort, not on performance. It is also an excellent time to encourage your daughter to build relationships with their teachers and ask for help when they need it.