Sunday, July 27, 2014

So you have a middle schooler!

If this is your first time stepping into the wonderful world of being a middle school parent, let me be the first to welcome you! If you believe the ‘word on the street’, then you’re probably terrified about what the next 3 years hold. If you’re looking at this kid, wondering what happened to your baby, don’t fear- they’re not that far away.
I’ve been teaching middle school for 10 years, and here’s the truth: middle schoolers are the jam. They’re figuring out who they are, and I get to be a part of that journey with them. Middle school years are the weirdest of your life. You are literally stuck in the middle.

When I tell people that I teach middle school, their immediate reaction is either extreme gratitude that I provide this service to our community or extreme disgust that they’re friends with someone who chooses to spend time with these mutants. But the reality is, I LOVE middle school students. They make me laugh, wonder, rejoice, and even sometimes cry.

If your child is just starting middle school, or you’re flabbergasted at the ridiculousness of your 13 year old, the journey doesn’t have to be terrible. Here are some tips at making these 3 years a roller coaster rather than a haunted house:

Embrace the weird.
This is the weirdest your kid is ever going to be. So when they come home and decide that they’ve decided to become a penguin tamer, don’t panic! Power up that Google and help them figure out the best way to become the best dang penguin tamer in the country! Middle school students have amazing dreams- most of them are still innocent enough to believe childlike dreams, but now they have an acute awareness of the adult word- so the ideas that spring in their heads will blow your mind. Embrace those things!

Embrace the change.
I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had a parent tell me that their child “didn’t used to be this way”. When they’re failing classes or getting in fights with friends, it’s hard to see that this change is a good thing. But, if you really look for it, you’ll see that all of these changes are working together to make them adults. Instead of lamenting the changes, embrace them. If they’re no longer interested in one thing, help them find their new passion. Talk to them to find out why it’s changing- they may not even be aware of it, so be patient with them. These changes are going to happen. Celebrate them!

Embrace the village.
The old proverb ‘it takes a village’ will never ring more true than these middle school years. Teachers and coaches and friends and boyfriends and girlfriends and that weird kid’s parents will all be a part of your child’s village. If you hide from them, they will destroy you. You have to go on the offensive. Seek them out. Know their hearts. Respect your differences and similarities. Invite them over for tacos. Take them to the fair. Make them Christmas cookies. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Listen intently. The more you know your child’s village, the more connected you’ll be to your child.

Embrace your kid.
By 7th grade, most kids are pretty embarrassed at the idea of hugging their parents in public. Do it anyway. If they know that you’re not going away and you’re not going to stop hugging them, then they rest easy, knowing that their number one fan is still their mom and dad. They may seem tough and distant and completely independent, but your baby isn’t all that far away. Hug them. A lot. It means so much to them, even though they’ll probably never tell you that. 

And don't worry. They'll be ok.

So will you.