The Sane Mom’s Guide to Parenting Middle School Kids

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I’m a mom of five. 

I’ve got one high school grad, two middle schoolers, and two younger sons whom I dotingly refer to as “the little boys.” (Much to the chagrin of my older kids.)

Wanna take a shot at which kids confuse and make me crazy most often? 

You guessed it: the middle schoolers

(Okay, sometimes it’s the high school grad. But we’re not talking about that today.)

If you’re also parenting middle school kids, I’m sure I don’t need to explain.

But, just in case, there’s a very scientific reason why middle schoolers can be confusing to themselves and their mothers. 

It all has to do with the chemicals raging through their brains. You know the ones (because they still torment us as grown women): hormones. 

Hormones trigger so many changes in our kids around this age. Lots of changes are highly visible (hello, pimples and greasy hair). But there’s a lot going on inside, too. 

Take, for example, the prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobes inside your child’s head. SO many functions are changing, as his or her brain is literally being rewired during adolescence (which, for your information, is a process that doesn’t end until the mid-20s).

To put it simple: middle school kids are as confused as they are confusing.

They aren’t “little” any more (face it, Mom). But they aren’t big kids yet either. 

They just don’t know who they are or where they fit. We don’t know who they are or where they fit either.

It’s a tough stage, for kids and parents alike. 

Every mom of middle schoolers needs lots of grace, patience and a sense of humor.

Here are three things every mom needs to remember if she wants to stay sane through the process.

These are things that you very likely already know. But if you’re anything like me, then a gracious reminder and an atta-girl goes a long way on the tough days!

Your Middle Schooler Needs a Safe Place 

Nothing is familiar to this child any more. 

His or her body is changing. Friends are experiencing the same changes. Everyone (or almost everyone) in his or her world is suddenly insecure and awkward. 

To make things worse, not everyone goes through the changes at the same pace. Maybe your middle school daughter is the tall girl in her friend group. Or, even worse, maybe your son is the only kid in his class who hasn’t hit a growth spurt yet.

Whatever is going on in your middle schooler’s internal or external world, you can count on this: he or she probably feels extremely insecure a lot of the time. 

Your child needs a safe place, and providing that is part of your job description as a parent.

Meal times at home, bedtime routines, conversations in the car. Any time you can give your child some space to talk, connect, and just relax — do it.

Yes, there are plenty of times when you’ll have to call out behavior or attitudes.

But be intentional about making sure your middle school kid gets plenty of safe space, too. 

Middle Schoolers Are Still Kids

It’s easy to expect more out of your kids as they grow toward their teen years. But remember this: your middle school son or daughter is still a scared kid on the inside. 

Maturity comes slowly for most of us. It’s a gradual process, and it’s unique for everyone. 

Don’t compare your child with other kids his or her age. Accept the fact that maybe your son isn’t quite ready for the sports team, or your daughter needs some more help academically. 

Encourage your child to grow into his or her potential, but make sure you give plenty of time (and encouragement) in the process. 

And the end of the day, your middle schooler still needs you to be the adult.

At the end of the day, your middle schooler needs you to be the adult.

Let Them Be Different From You

This has been a big one for me to remember as I raised my oldest child and as I’m raising my two young teens.

Middle school kids are literally beginning a metamorphosis. They are changing from the children we knew and loved and beginning their journey toward adulthood.

Who they were as kids is not necessarily who they want to be right now. They may want to wear weird clothes or try a haircut you’re not crazy about (and we won’t even talk about music or food choices). 

It’s important that you set boundaries for what’s important to your family (I recommend the book, Boundaries With Kids, for every parent).

But be intentional about giving your kid some space to push against (or even away from) you a little. This is a normal process. A healthy one, in fact.

And keep this in mind: who your child is right now isn’t who he or she will be in a year or two (or even six months from now). Your child is trying to figure out who he or she is and  will likely change his or her mind about a million times in the process. 

So relax: Your middle school son will likely move on from the weird tween lingo, and your daughter won’t obsess over soap eyebrows forever (one can hope, right?).

If you’re parenting a middle-school-age daughter, I highly recommend the book Mom’s Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World, by Nancy Rue. (You can read my review here.) This book was literally a lifesaver for me! 

Bottom line: Love your middle schooler right where they’re at. Focus on the heart and keep a your relationship a top priority. 

On the other side of this journey, you’ll end up with a teen who’s ready to take some major strides toward adulthood. But that’s a story for another day. 

Are you parenting a middle school-aged kid? What tips for moms would you add to this?

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