Your baby isn’t really a baby anymore. He’s a little stinkier, moodier, and you’re not as cool as you once were. How did we lose our coolness? Now your son or daughter “all of a sudden” cares if you are within 20 feet of them in public. You give them their first phone, and you wrestle with having to have “the talk.” Please let this message encourage and inspire you. You and your child will both survive the three years of middle school that include changing academics and changing physiology. Below are a few morsels of wisdom that may or may not help you through.
Much like the early years of walking, your middle schooler wants their freedom. They don’t want to hold your hand. They “can do it themselves.” Okay, this is when parents begin to let go. Let them try and do it themselves. But don’t go too far, they will wobble or even fall and will look for you. There is an art to staying close, but not too close. We have to let them go in order for them to begin to understand independence and being responsible for themselves, and their schoolwork.
School gets a little harder and social becomes a little more important. Changing classes, keeping up with multiple teachers and assignments teaches time management, organization, and an understanding of being accountable. Independence is wonderful but with freedom comes responsibility.
On the social front their friends “understand more than parents.” They are convinced parents never experienced peer pressure, girl/boy trouble or fitting in. That’s ok. Let them have their friends, but know who their friends are. Meet the parents of their friends. If someone is having a party, call the parent and ask if you can send snacks. That question will open the way to finding out other important things like making sure the parents are going to be home, or even know about the party.
Keep communicating. No, your middle schooler may not confide in you like they once did, but keep talking. Ask open-ended questions, ask their opinion. Listen to them more than offer advice. Don’t be afraid to just let them be. Over time, you’ll learn enough about what they are thinking and going through. And whether or not they show it, they will know that you are there for them when they need you. These exchanges will lead you toward what will one day be an adult relationship.
One other thought, as we begin to give them freedom, remember you as the parent are still in charge. You are giving them some freedom, which means if it’s abused or there are signs they can’t handle it, you can take it away. This will cause all kinds of attitude and drama to show up, but be strong. It’s as important to be consistent with discipline with adolescents as it is with toddlers. But give your child the opportunity to re-earn your trust so that you can start to let go again. The dance of giving and revoking freedoms will continue through high school to the point of both you and your child being ready to launch into college and adulthood. A whole other level of parent/child relationship change.