What’s the toughest stage for a parent? You may picture staying up all night with a crying infant or chasing after a rambunctious toddler. However, according to a recent study, middle school blues cause the most stress.
Researchers at Arizona State University found that parents of middle schoolers experience more stress and less wellbeing than parents of younger or older children. Try these tips for making parenting a little easier in between having a cute baby and a happy adult.
Dealing with Your Tween’s Growing Independence
It’s natural if the child who used to laugh at your jokes now wants to sulk in her room or squabble with his siblings. Help your tween deal with the dramatic physical and emotional changes they’re going through.
1. Start early. Prepare your kids for puberty and other changes. Listen to their concerns and answer their questions with age-appropriate information. Watch movies and read books together that will give you an opportunity to discuss bullying, proper social skills, peer pressure, and other issues.
2. Set limits. Tweens are bound to be moody, but you can help them deal with anger constructively. Be a positive role model. Let kids know that it’s okay to take time to cool off, but violent outbursts are out of bounds.
3. Provide reasons. Be open to discussing house rules. Tweens are likely to be more cooperative if they understand your concerns and know that you value their input.
4. Teach organizing skills. Your tween is probably facing more intense academic and social demands. Give them some pointers on managing their time and remembering homework assignments.
5. Show your appreciation. Focus on the positive. Praise kids for studying hard and pitching in with household chores.
6. Encourage extracurricular activities. Sixth to eighth grade is a great time for kids to explore new interests and build their confidence. Share their enthusiasm for the drama club or field hockey.
Reaching Out for Support
Just when things are becoming more challenging, you may feel increasingly isolated. When tweens leave their familiar elementary schools for larger middle schools, parents also need to cope with changing relationships.
1. Join a parent group. You may not be able to count on making friends with other parents at the playground and birthday parties anymore. Look for discussion groups online or at your church.
2. Bond at work or in other activities. If your schedule is tight, you may be able to team up with other middle school mothers at the office or at your gym. You can share your experiences and maybe even take turns driving the kids around.
3. Take classes. Are you stumped now that your tween has outgrown time outs? Ask your local community center or hospital about parenting classes where you can update your skills.
4. Talk with the teacher. Your child’s teacher and other school personnel can help you stay informed about how your child is doing in school and how you can help them learn. Share your concerns about excessive homework or college preparation. Offer to volunteer so you can stay informed.
5. Assess your marriage. Bringing up your tween could bring you and your spouse closer together or it could take a toll on your relationship. Sort out conflicts respectfully and present a united front. Make time for each other and make each other a priority.
6. Consider counseling. Talking with a therapist on your own or as a family can be a wise investment. Ask relatives and friends for a referral or check with your doctor.
Your tween’s physical and emotional growth can be a cause for celebration as well as concern. Help you and your children to flourish during their middle school years. Reach out for the support you need as you guide your tween towards adulthood.