• April 2021 "Stuck" in the Middle

    Posted by Deb Brown on 4/1/2021 5:00:00 AM

    “Stuck” in the Middle

    When we hear phrases or descriptions like “middle ground”, “in the middle of something”, “middle management”, or “caught in the middle”, it doesn’t conjure up images or situations we necessarily want to be in. There is an implication that we’re neither here nor there, stuck, or not quite where we want to be. But, there are valuable lessons to be learned when we’re “in the middle”. So, too, the same for adolescents in middle school. “Middle” schoolers - no longer children in elementary school, but not yet ready for high school. It is a time of development, of growth and of preparing for moving forward. How can parents, family members and friends help to guide adolescents? Let’s get to know the middle school child:

    • Middle school learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. They can pull from prior knowledge, life experiences and have a richer oral vocabulary. Help them by sharing hobbies, travel or special times with them. It is essential for parents of a middle schooler to encourage their child to reach their academic potential and to instill a desire for education. Some middle schoolers may have no one at home to assist with homework, read or discuss the events of the day. A barrier to this?......
    • Adolescents tend to push their parents away. While completely normal, it makes it difficult to stay connected - but do. Middle schoolers want freedom. They want to make their own choices. That’s the tension of living somewhere in the middle. Staying connected is challenging because…..
    • What their friends think matters more than anything else. Middle schoolers are desperately trying to fit in. Peer approval will always trump advice from adults (especially their parents). They can’t be seen wearing those pants, hanging with those boys, or walking around in public with their parents - but do.
    • They exaggerate (and sometimes lie). When you find yourself wondering, “What happened to my baby? They didn’t use to be this way,” know you’re not alone. This is middle school. Something happens at the 8th grade dance, and your child is huddled in a circle crying in the bathroom with her friends. If it’s trending, they are talking about it… non-stop. Their teacher is obviously the most unfair person on the whole planet. Adolescents are self-absorbed and tend to exaggerate a single occurrence as something far more dire and complex than it actually is. So, it makes it hard to….
    • Acknowledge that they want to be taken seriously. They don’t want you to just allow them to have fun; they want you to have fun with them. At the same time, they want you to be real with them. They want to be taken seriously. They don’t want surface answers. They want direct, real explanations. When they tell you something that seems silly to you but real to them, you can’t laugh. You can’t dismiss it. You have to engage it with a matched level of seriousness to show them you care.
    • They are incredibly insecure about what is happening to their bodies. When you feel like you’re the only one going through something, you feel like all eyes are on you at all times. Normalizing what’s happening to and around them is important, but be sensitive to the fact that when you bring up what’s happening to their body, they may get even more insecure at the fact that you are noticing. If you’re trying to get your middle schooler to do something in front of their peers and they resist, there is probably a physical explanation for it. Though it’s all normal, it feels isolating to them. So don’t push them.
    • YouTube is the be-all-and-end-all. According to many research studies, 80%-95% of Generation Z seeks advice through YouTube channels and videos. The most searched videos are about real stories, day-in-the-life videos, behind-the-scenes videos, or how-to videos. They want to know about relationships and dating, teen trends, advice on how to do new skills, and more. If they don’t know how, they go to YouTube. If they don’t know what it is, they go to YouTube. If they want to become famous, they go to YouTube. So basically, you should be on YouTube, too.

    Yes, your little baby is growing up, on their way to adulthood. No longer a child but not yet mature, they need your guidance and understanding during this developmental stage. Focus on the positives. Seeing your youngster figuring out life, making decisions and asking questions is what he/she was raised to do. Be proud and continue to be there. Be “stuck in the middle” together and the outcome will be tremendously rewarding.

    Most Respectfully,

    Pamela Stiles, Superintendent                                                                April 1, 2021

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