Parenting in Middle School
6th Grade Typical Issues
- 6th-grade students typically enjoy moving from class to class and like school. Teachers do a lot of extra handholding in the beginning, but some students still struggle to keep up.
- Socially things get a lot more complex than in elementary school. For those who enjoy making new friends and do so easily, they enjoy the transition. For some kids, seeing their old friends branch out can be challenging. They can become fearful about losing friendships.
- Students begin to become more socially conscious about their appearance and social status, though many remain very innocent. They will begin to see some peers dressing more like teens, using social media and texting, talking about popularity, and dating. This remains the vast minority of 6th graders though. They still like to play games during recess and hang out with each other.
- Counselors are often asked to help resolve friend issues, including how to “break up with a friend” that they no longer want to associate with.
6th Grade - When to Call
- It is normal for them to get overwhelmed and discouraged and have days when they “hate school” or just want to be left alone. Often they are fine by the next day. If this persists for several days or begins to become a bigger issue (i.e. they stop eating, can’t sleep, want to be alone all the time, etc.) call your student's counselor for support.
- Significant academic struggles
- A significant shift in friend groups (including losing friends)
Advice for 6th Grade Parents
- Help with schoolwork and organization to the extent they need it, but begin to let them do more on their own.
- Do not express shock when they tell you about some of the things other students are saying and doing. Listen calmly and ask them what they think of this. Always offer your perspective from the bias of your own values. They are still highly influenced by your opinions and values.
- Monitor any social media (including texting and video game chatting) to ensure nothing inappropriate or concerning is going on.
- Remember - at this age what seems like the end of the world one day, is often forgotten by the next. Parents oftentimes have a harder time letting go!
7th Grade Typical Issues
- Teachers begin to be more “hands-off”. Organization and managing details can be a challenge and lead some students to fall behind. Students ask counselors for help and report feeling “stressed out”.
- Often there is less “drama” as social groups tend to have stabilized by 7th grade.
- Students might start to become more interested in dating.
- They will likely become more fashion-conscious and want to dress and look like teenagers.
- They tend to want more freedom.
- Some start to feel the stress of getting into a private high school and put high pressure on themselves.
7th Grade - When to Call
- When your student is struggling in multiple subjects and you need to speak with more than one teacher or are concerned your child is getting discouraged.
- If they used to have many friends in 6th grade and now suddenly don’t.
- Any significant, lasting change in behavior that is headed in a negative direction.
Advice for 7th Grade Parents
- Prioritize extracurriculars. Kids still need downtime, playtime, and free time. The over-scheduled 12-year-old who is fighting to keep up with all of the demands often becomes the burned-out 16-year-old. It is better to pick a few activities and focus on those than to load up on many.
- Monitor social media. Listen carefully to the conversations your child has with their peers. While very few 7th graders try drinking or drugs, this is the age when we begin to notice this showing up and at least have awareness of it going on amongst their peers.
- Communicate with other parents as you are giving your kids more “freedom”. Know whose house they are going to, make sure parents are home, etc. The more alliances you can build with like-minded and similarly-valued parents, the better off your kids will be.
- Start teaching them how to talk to adults and advocate for themselves. While you can still come to school to talk with teachers, teaching them to do this themselves will help them immensely. Allow them to manage their own schoolwork as much as possible
- Your child will still have a successful career one day, even if he doesn’t always get straight A’s! “Personal best” doesn’t look the same for everyone. If you can accept this and instill it in your 7th grader, you will make your and their lives so much easier later on. You will help them avoid the anxiety and stress that consumes many high schoolers.
8th Grade Typical Issues
- Teachers begin to demand a higher level of thinking to do school work. This involves attending to more details, solving more complex problems, and managing more complex ideas and assignments. For some, this is an effortless transition. For others, it can be overwhelming and they will fall behind quickly and their grades will suffer.
- They tend to be far more concerned with peers and less engaged with adults and tend to create some distance from parents. The same student who in 6th grade would have come to the school counselor now goes to her friends. The same student who in 6th grade would have talked to his parents now talks to friends or doesn’t talk to anyone at all.
- They begin to see their parent's flaws and hypocrisies and have strong opinions about them.
- They will worry about friends, especially if the friend is using drugs.
- They may begin dating more seriously.
- Some parents are highly permissive. 8th graders notice this and can resent their own parents who are more restrictive.
8th Grade - When to Call
- A sudden, significant drop in grades. (NOTE: often this can often be resolved by working with the teacher to develop a system that ensures the student understands and manages ways to improve)
- Sudden change in friend groups, including withdrawing from friends altogether.
- Stress-related behavior like sleep problems, eating problems, etc.
Advice for 8th Grade Parents
- Teach and expect your 8th graders to advocate for themselves as much as possible. This will serve them and give them a boost of confidence in navigating high school.
- Allow them to manage their own schoolwork as much as possible
- Monitor all social media, listen to peer conversations, etc. You need to be alert to any dangerous or high-risk activities going on in their lives.
- Though they may not talk to you as much, they still very much want and need you. Take advantage of time in the car, going out to eat, watching TV shows together, times when they are feeling talkative - to connect and stay updated.
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