Understanding Middle Schoolers: Tips for Success

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Are you worried about your middle school student? In middle school, our children grow and change in almost every aspect. You may notice maturity in your child’s physical development, cognitive skills, social abilities, and/or emotional development. Or, you may notice that your child is lacking in one or more of these areas.

There is not a specific timeline of milestones that your child must follow. Every pre-teen and teen develops at his or her own pace. With so much variation in maturity in middle school, it can be hard to tell if your child is on track or if he or she is struggling to keep up.

Are you unsure about what’s typical and what’s cause for concern? Let’s learn about the usual milestones and use it as a guide for what to expect…

  • Physical Benchmarks –
    Children go through many major physical changes during middle school due to puberty. As their height and weight change, they may become slightly less coordinated. They may also develop improved fine motor and gross motor skills, like the skills needed for team sports. Most middle schoolers will have a difference in body and brain development. They may be more developed physically than cognitively, socially, or emotionally. Though your child may look mature, it does not necessarily mean that his or her mind is mature yet. Since their bodies are using energy for growing, pre-teens and teens will require additional rest as well. Therefore, it’s important your child gets enough sleep to ensure he or she has enough energy for the day.

  • Cognitive Benchmarks –
    During middle school years, children begin to improve their ability to make decisions, manage time, problem-solve, and think conceptually. They better understand bigger-picture concepts like power or the future. They will be more interested in having debates about these concepts as they develop their own point of view and moral compass. Guide your child in finding his or her own voice by engaging in discussions with him or her. Encourage your child to have an open mind, to avoid rushing to judgments, and to ask questions. In addition, middle schoolers will be able to better memorize information and problem solve on their own. This is an important time as they develop skills that are beneficial in school and in life.

  • Social and Emotional Benchmarks –
    Pre-teens and teens experience a great deal of social and emotional changes as they learn to communicate and get along with others. Every kid will try to fit in with his or her peers while developing his or her identity as an individual. It’s common for children to rely less on their parents advice and trust their own instincts in social situations. They may give into peer pressure, experience bullying, and push boundaries as they try to figure out where they fit in socially. They also will have a better understanding of how to converse—like knowing what is appropriate to say, what body language indicates, and how tone of voice influences a conversation. At the same time, middle schoolers may feel insecure about themselves and sensitive to others’ opinions. It’s normal for them to isolate, want privacy, and be moody from time to time. As a parent, you can offer guidance and support for your child. Let your son or daughter know that you are there to help him or her with the unpredictability of social situations and emotions.

Middle school is a time of transitions. Children will learn and grow physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally—all at different rates, depending on the child. Pre-teens and teens become increasingly aware of themselves and the world around them, which leads them to question, experiment, and try new things.

Know that it’s okay if your child is more mature in one area than another; with time, you’ll see more balance in your child’s development.If you have any concern about your child’s growth, you may want to reach out to your child’s teacher to get their insight. You can also seek professional help, like a therapist or a DBT group for example, in order to guide your son or daughter through areas of difficulty. You and your child will get through this transition. Your well-connected and emotionally flexible child can be a reality!

(Source: Amanda Morin from understood.org)