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Middle School Problems: We Know You Wanna Fix Them, But Step Away

Worrying about your middle schooler’s problems? Normal. Solving them? Please don’t.

I host a group of moms at my office in Charlotte, NC every month for a Moms Meet Up. It’s a casual and rotating group of about 10 women who gather around a conference table to do what I call “normal checking” on the many mysteries of parenting a middle schooler. Is it normal or completely deviant that my son looked up (fill in the blank) on the computer? Does anyone else’s daughter yell at them in front of their friends? Why can’t my kid turn in his homework? Should I be bringing forgotten lunch or homework to school?

Raising a middle schooler can feel almost as awkward as being in middle school. Both are fraught with angst-filled questions and insecurities! Especially when it comes to what to do about common middle school problems.

You were cruising along at a comfortable pace until the end of elementary school when suddenly, the terrain changed drastically. Now you and your kid are hitting a lot of bumps in the road. Are you feeling overwhelmed with all of these new issues in your kid’s life? I assure you this is completely normal. Are you trying to make the path smoother for your kid? Also perfectly normal.

Bumps in the road, however, appear for a reason. They are a part of middle school development. They are the catalysts of change that prompt kids to become adults. Without them, things would stay easy and childlike and THE SAME forever.

Resist the urge to smooth the road too much for your middle school children. When faced with a problem, what every tween craves is empathy and personal triumph. Let your child know that you recognize their struggle and that you empathize with the challenges they face. But don’t handicap them by creating a false sense of accomplishment.

Parents who call the teacher about seating assignments, run the forgotten lunch to school, or inform other parents about social expectations undermine your middle schooler’s chance at personal triumph. Every time your middle school child learns to solve their problems on their own, they develop confidence, competency, and resilience that will last them long past the bumpy middle school years.

Michelle Icard

Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at MichelleintheMiddle.com.