I’ve been a middle school counselor for the past 8 years and I absolutely love working with preteens and teenagers.
When people find out that I work in a middle school, they shake their head and tell me that they feel sorry for me and there’s now way they could deal with the drama and hormones.
What I personally love about middle schoolers is the evolution I see in their personalities when they enter as timid 6th graders, and leave as confident 8th graders.
While there is definitatly not shortage of he say/she say drama, social media wars & hormonal breakdowns, I love offering support to my students.
Middle school is such a tricky time, and they need support from adults, but often don’t know how to ask. Here are a few reasons you can’t get anything out of your middle school child:
They Think You Don’t Understand
Kids often forget that their parents were once kids too. Even though times have changed, there are some experiences that don’t change.
They Think You’re Too Busy
Most families are now 2 parent working households. Parents are working longer shifts, and often parents pass each other like ships in the night.
I can’t tell you how many times kids don’t bring things back signed because their parent that worked the night shift was exhausted and they didn’t want to bother them.
I always encourage my students to talk to their parents about things that are bothering them, but they afraid that they will get in trouble for interrupting their parents while they are working on other things.
They Think You Don’t Care
Teenagers can be dramatic. They can take small things and turn them into earth shattering moments. But those moments are important to them.
Once I told one of my students that I didn’t want to see her back in my office with any nonsense. The next time a teacher brought her to talk to me, she had major attitude. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that I told her not to come back. I told her what I meant was I didn’t want to have to talk to her about drama that she brought on herself. I didnt mean that she couldn’t come and talk to me. I was shocked because that student and I have a good rapport.
It’s easy to mistake maturity for adulthood. Just because your child is responsible, doesn’t mean that they don’t still need you.
They Don’t Have the Words
My five year old still has tantrums on ocassion. When I see her melting down, I remind her to use her words. When my girls start fussing with each other and whining to me, I remind them to speak clearly and use their words.
When kids get older, we stop coaching them on how to express their feelings.
The teen years is when they really need our help the most! They are navigating a host of new experiences, and often struggle with articulating their feelings. And they often feel ashamed about what they feel.
So how can I get my child to open up and talk to me?
It really isn’t as difficult as you think…trust me…I do this everyday.
Ask Your Middle School Child Specific Questions
Not just yes or no questions. And not just how was your day. Dig deeper. Ask your middle school child who they ate lunch with. Ask what the highlight of their day was. Ask who their favorite teachers are.
The more you ask, the more you know.
And the more your child knows you care.
Sure, they may act like they don’t want you up in their business, but I can promise you that they secretly like it.
Invite Their Friends Over
Are you curious about how you child acts in school? Take some time to meet the kids they spend the most time with. This will tell you alot about the things they are discussing and where their interests lie.
I was just in a conference last week with a mom who was unhappy with her daughter’s recent choice of friends. Mom thought that her friend group was the reason she kept getting into so much trouble. And mom was absolutely right.
Spend Time Together
While most teens do prefer the company of their friends over their families, it doesn’t mean that they don’t still value time together as a family.
I get it. In between soccer practice, work obligations & home chores, it can be difficult to squeeze in extra alone time with your (pre)teen. But your relationship depends on it.
Spending time together can be as simple as reading the same book together (having a family book club) or taking your middle school child out with you (alone if they have siblings) to get some icecream after running errands, or showing up to bring them lunch at school.
Need more tips on parenting middle schoolers & teens? Check out these posts: