By: Pamela Thomas, Director
When we do a supervised visit with a middle schooler we are able to see a big difference from an elementary school student. A new world awaits a middle schooler. Most generally the schools are larger and being popular or finding your tribe is the most important thing. Academics take on a different roll as for the first time middle schoolers learn the importance of testing and why making good grades are important. Those that cant do it become angry and rebellious sometimes self medicating. One principal stated to me that middle school is where you practice being acceptable so that you can be accepted somewhere. The where is not the important factor-the acceptance is. Middle schoolers want to fit in and be part of a group. Often, trouble and high conflict in a family is a source of embarrassment in this age group. Peers seem to have a heightened sense of awareness and social media keeps the gossip and stories moving. So here are some things that may help with high conflict cases:
1. Don’t act out in public when you are with your middle schooler. That includes rolling your eyes or whispering to your new significant other about your ex in front of your child-ever. Most especially at a school or other community events with the other party present. Your middle schooler has not developed the skill set to handle both their peers and you acting out in the same room.
2. Middle schoolers have a heightened sense of justice. They think everything should be fair and make an attempt to even out the playing field. Your middle schooler may all of the sudden state that he/she wants equal time with the other parent. There may be cries that ‘you are not being fair” or the teacher was not fair. Everything must be weighed and balanced for fairness.
3. Don’t talk badly about your ex on social media. Guess who else is on social media? There are always people who take great pride in telegraphing your bad news to others. That could also be another mom whose child is your child’s friend. Interesting how much more adept your middle schooler is than you in gathering info (all kinds of info) on the internet. Be discreet.
4. Get help if you need it. Remember that part of your job as a parent of a middle schooler is to guide your child. A guide is NOT a self proclaimed traffic cop. Work hard to have camaraderie and respect for each other and listen to your child. Those fears, and anxious moments can be lessened if your middle schooler is certain that you are their advocate.
5. Finally, when you feel like you are losing everything in your family it is hard to loosen the hold on that middle school child. It is however, their chance to learn before they are an adult. Make yourself be a reasonable parent and let them learn the consequences of their behavior while you are there to help. Learn the art of reasoning with your middle schooler. If God, in Isaiah 1:18 states “Come let us reason together” and invites man to reason with him, maybe, just maybe your invitation to reason with your middle schooler is the first step to a dynamic and long lasting relationship.