FAQ about the Middle Years:
- Is it normal for my middle schooler to want to be struggling one minute and then fine the next?
YES! Middle school aged kids are working to become adults. They are learning to become more independent. And, as they do this they are having lots of new opportunities and challenges, as well as experiencing a lot of changes in all aspects of their lives. This is exciting and at times difficult. From an evolutionary perspective, this is the most important thing that can happen in human life. It is a time of tremendous physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. The physical, hormonal, and neurological changes take place to prepare the body and mind for the lessons needed to become adults. Quite literally, adult lessons. We sometimes like to empathize with Middle Schoolers by thinking about starting a new job. You are so excited and happy and, at the same time, it is new and there is a huge learning curve. When you’re meeting new people, going to a different building every day, keeping different hours, and even your responsibilities have changed. It is a lot all at once. Adjusting takes time and patience.
- What is typically going on socially for Middle Schoolers?
Phew. Social changes in middle school. It can be A LOT to deal with. Kids are exploring friendships, where they fit in with friends, what kinds of things they like to do or don’t like to do. They make mistakes. They say things that are unkind as they explore. Someone might say something unkind to them because they are all at their “new job.” They don’t understand the rules or the culture yet. Making friends in Middle School can be a lot like trying on new shoes at a (very confusing!) shoe store. You may find some shoes that work for a bit, and then they don’t, or maybe you find some that work for one thing and not the other. It certainly takes awhile to find that perfect pair – especially when your feet are always growing and changing!
- What is the best thing to do to help a middle schooler struggling in a specific moment?
It is completely age appropriate and normal to get stressed and/or have big feelings, but supporting students through these times with specific strategies will tremendously help them grow to be socially intelligent and compassionate adults in the long run.
Within your executive function skill set lives your ability to control your emotions – it is a critical piece to the EF pie! When emotions or stress are running high (think assessments in school or fights with friends), we encourage students to use one of our very favorite strategies: SNAP, also known as:
- STOP: what you are doing
- NAME: the feeling
- ASK: “What do I need right now?”
- PLAN: a response, which might include walking away from the stressor, asking for help, utilizing a breathing strategy, or getting a drink of water
- What is a normal amount for a student to be studying/doing homework?
Most students can concentrate on a single task for about 2-5 minutes x their age. So, for a 12 year old that is a maximum of 60 min! Of course, in middle school, the homework load might be more than that or it may take your child longer to do certain assignments, so one of our favorite tips is: BRAIN BREAKS! Research shows that short timed breaks actually increase productivity, creativity, and efficiency. Brain breaks should be timed (we recommend about 10 min) and something that your child actually enjoys! A few examples: shoot baskets outside, yoga flow, breathing meditation, cuddle with your dog, make a healthy snack.
For our Brain Break Choice Board, check out our Teachers Pay Teacher Store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Sellers-Im-Following/Add/Middle-Years-Matter-Llc
- What is the best advice you can give for people with middle schoolers?
- Have Fun Together. Do something your child loves to do: ride bikes, go get ice cream, watch a movie, bake something special, etc. Think about what has the most value to you and your child and share the experience together!
- Get Curious and Learn. Ask your child questions like what did you like about that movie? What was your favorite moment during that game?
- Share a story or experience from your own life. This is so so so underrated and truly makes such a difference.
- Just sit there. Sometimes our children need us to just sit, to listen, to be quiet, to let them talk or share or just realize you are there and they don’t need to do or say anything. Or they can let it all out and you support them.
- Trust your gut. You know how to connect with your child. Think of those moments that feel good and do more of that.
- Middle Years Matter Book recommendations for middle school families?
- How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
- The Self Driven Child by Ned Johnson and William Stixrud
- Enough As She Is by Rachel Simmons
- Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman
- IGen by Jeanne Twenge
- Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour
- Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel
- Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba
- How can Middle Years Matter support me and my Middle Schooler during the middle years?
Great question! Our main goal at MYM is to give middle schoolers the right tools to balance school, sports, friends, and everything else life throws at them. Through carefully crafted workshops, we focus on skills like:
- Executive Functioning
- Study Strategies
- Social/Emotional Learning
- Classroom Confidence
- Organizational Skills
- Team Building
In addition to our student workshops, we also offer team-building workshops for athletic teams which are specifically geared toward teaching crucial skills such as communication, collaboration, and leadership through activities, games, and visualization. And lastly, we offer parent workshops which offer tips and strategies on how parents can best support their middle schoolers and help navigate these “messy” years. Our parent workshops also offer a safe space for parents to connect, reflect, and ask questions.
You can find out more about Middle Years Matter on our website www.middleyearsmatter.com or follow us on instagram @middlyearsmatter_ We love posting helpful tips for middle school families and connecting with our community of teachers, parents, teams, and even middle schoolers themselves. We also have all of our events and offerings posted on our website and insta as well, so you can stay up to date with what’s going on with us!