The middle school years are often a tough time for kids. They’re going through a lot of physical and emotional changes while still developing mentally. It’s also the age where your child begins learning about many of the things you’ve tried to shelter him from thus far including alcohol, drugs, and sex.
It’s hard to imagine children this young talking about or engaging in this type of behavior, but it happens more often than people like to think. They need to hear about these potential temptations from you first, with guidelines on how to handle them, because they are going to be exposed by their peers first if you don’t. If you don’t give them a strong foundation on which to respond to these things, they might not know what to do when a situation happens. It’s your job as the parent to help prepare them for this.
Part of that preparation is letting them know it’s safe to talk to you. Open communication with your children about these things as they are maturing is very important. If your middle schooler is afraid to tell you things, they are more likely to hide it from you, listen to their peers, and potentially end up in trouble. Your middle schooler needs to know that they can come to you if they make a mistake and that you will help them and guide them through it. One of the number one reasons children of this age lie to their parents is out of fear of consequences.
Middle schoolers need their parents to help guide them through this difficult time in their life. However, instead of drawing closer to their parents, many tweens stop talking and become more withdrawn. It’s up to you to find ways to get through to your child and make a connection so you know what’s going on in his life.
Here are six proven methods of keeping communication open in the middle school years:
1. Make casual conversation
When asked directly, many tweens back away from talking about themselves. They feel like you’re prying into their personal life and when they feel pressured, they often shut down. However, kids this age are much more willing to talk and it’s easier for them to open up when you engage in casual conversation and allow him to lead the topics.
2. Know the difference between having a conversation and lecturing
In order to have a conversation and connect with each other, you have to be willing to talk and listen. Otherwise, you’re just lecturing. When you begin to lecture and tell your child what he should and shouldn’t do, you’re not listening and the conversation quickly becomes one-sided. Show your child the respect he deserves. Hold a real conversation with him instead of lecturing.
3. Show your tween sympathy
This truly is a difficult time for your middle schooler. It’s important for him to fit in with his peers without losing his own identity. He is also learning how to cope with disappointments and all the other feelings tweens go through at this age. Be sympathetic and supportive of him. Your middle schooler will be more likely to share his feelings when he knows you’re not judging him or dismissing his feelings as nothing important.
4. Keep things simple and to the point
If you get into a long drawn out conversations with your tween, you’re going to lose him somewhere along the way. Most middle school-aged kids get bored and distracted very easily. So, when you’re going into detail and taking too long to get to the point, he probably stopped paying attention. Keep it short and not only will he most likely remember what you say but he may listen and respond better to it.
5. Be the parent
When your middle schooler needs someone to talk to about the kid that’s bullying him or how he really wants to dress and wear his hair, he needs a parent, not a friend. He already has plenty of friends giving him advice, much of which may not be good. He needs an authority figure he can depend on to give him good advice, even if it’s not what he wants to hear at the time.
6. Respect your tween’s ideas and opinions; don’t shoot them down
Many times parents find it difficult to look at things objectively. You have your opinions and beliefs and it’s natural to expect your child to agree with them but that’s not always the case. Kids at this age see things differently and you can learn a lot when you respect your tweens ideas and opinions. He will also be more willing to talk when you show him this type of respect.
Raising middle schoolers certainly has its challenges but you can get through it together. Use these
methods to help keep the conversations flowing during these difficult years and it will help bring you closer together.
Need some ideas for conversation starters to use on car rides or around the dinner table? Here are 25 Conversation Starters to Help You Connect with Your Middle Schooler.