WHAT?? WAIT!!!! WHO?? I think I am going to be sick! Mitchell will be in middle school next year! I AM NOT READY! If you are a parent entering the middle school years, please know that tears are OK. Please understand that looking at your child and thinking, “who the hell are you and where is my baby?” is a normal reaction to your preteen. Having heart palpitations and severe anxiety at the thought of a new school with bigger kids, changing classes and stricter teachers is FINE! You know why? BECAUSE I AM RIGHT THERE WITH YOU! After all the crying, wishing for the toddler years again and even the denial….we will have to face facts. OUR CHILDREN ARE GROWING UP!
If you are in middle school already or headed that way, let me offer some sound advice on how to help them and help yourself.
Ask them how they are feeling – Mitchell’s father and I do not have the best relationship but we will communicate with each other about Mitchell. The other day he called to tell me Mitchell was nervous about going to a new school. We have been at the same small, secluded school for 6 years. In that time, Mitchell has developed some pretty strong friendships. He knows every teacher and every kiddo. Of course he will be nervous about a new environment, it is to be expected. Talk to your kiddos and ask them how they feel. Please do this in a private setting and not at the dinner table or in a big group. Have this conversation one-on-one so that you get truthful answers and real conversation.
Ask them how you can pray for them – Last week I went to the initial meeting for youth group at church ( I was not ready for this either) and I got some great advice. The advice was, to ask your kiddo how you can pray for them? Ask it now! You may not get really big stuff but this will lay the foundation for bigger stuff down the line. This is yet another way to open up lines of communication and have that dialogue with your child. Their peers are important. Let your children know YOU ARE THERE FOR THEM! Always leave the door open and give them a chance to talk. Most of the time it will be inconvenient for you, you will be tired, hungry, not in a good mood or all three. Remember this before you turn them away……THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS IN PARENTING!
Work on making friends with someone at their new school before it starts – So I know a few kids who go to the school Mitchell will attend next year. I will plan some play dates this summer. This is so he will at least know someone when he enters his new school. I know my kiddo well. You have had your children awhile and should know them as well. I understand that I gave birth to a very social child, so I need to make sure that part of him is taken care of in order for him to be comfortable. I am sure there will be a time to meet the teachers and get familiar with the lay out of the school. We are transitioning from private to public. Both Mitchell and I have anxiety about this as it is a HUGE adjustment for both of us.
Talk about your feelings with middle school parents – I am NOT shy so this is no problem for me. I am sure there are parents of middle-schoolers that you know. Perhaps you attend the same church, grocery shop at the same store, see them around the neighborhood or even work with them. This will require some effort on your part but it is important to connect. Make sure you ask all the questions you want to ask, even if you think it is silly. Ask the question! We are discussing our children. Staying informed is the best way to parent as our children age.
Volunteer at the school – Umm, I not sure what you are going to do but I am going to volunteer. AND SPY! Yes, I said it and I mean it! Not that I do not love to give back in any way that I can or make use of my skill set. BUT I want to know my kiddo is doing well and so one of the ways I can do that is to volunteer and spy. I’ll ask questions and get to know the staff, how do you think I got all my information in elementary school? Middle School cannot be too different? Right?
Go over the puberty talk again-or have it for the first time – I started having the talk about changes in his body when he was 8, now we are seeing evidence of some of the things that I have mentioned. Voices will change, hair on legs and under the arms are growing, if they have not grown already. Needless to say, we are using deodorant. Let me just interject here, if I may. If you have a 10 or 11-year-old who is active and/or in sports, your car or their room may already smell like a gym locker. It is time to invest in deodorant! Actually it is past time. This is part of the growing process and should not cause shame or embarrassment. WE ALL SWEAT! Keep talking and letting them ask questions. Let them know it is happening to everyone and they are not alone. Even tell them your puberty story. It really will help. Remember you can make yourself available or they can ask a friend, the choice is yours!
Keep the lines of communication OPEN – My son has been a night owl since he arrived here on this earth. This means that ALL of the important stuff he has to tell me is normally at night when I am dead-dog tired. So I have learned to put him in bed a few minutes early, have our prayer time and then ask him if anything is on his mind. In the dark, in the quiet at the end of the day he is willing to talk about issues he is having. I have learned not to “freak out” or yell or flip on the lights and give him my “mad mommy face”. I just let him talk. The whole point of this is to keep the lines of communication open. Children will not always tell you pretty stories or what you want to hear. But in order to keep them talking, you have to remain calm and be open.
Make sure you have a support group/preteen group for your kiddos – As I mentioned before my son is now a part of the youth group at church. These talented men and women will shape and mold in him in a way that I cannot. They will see and hear things that they are equipped to handle. Iron sharpens iron. Kids need to learn from each other in a place where qualified adults can and will guide them. Mitchell is already a sports guy and will continue to play sports in middle and high school. It is important for me to have other adult figures in his life that are pouring into him in a variety of ways.
I am petrified of middle school for my kid. But my fear will not help either of us. So I choose to remain informed and stay on top of things. I have no issues getting advice from parents that have already done the “middle school” thing. I will ask as many questions as I need to in order to feel secure. He and I are swimming in uncharted waters. WE CAN DO THIS AND WE CAN DO IT TOGETHER!