The Simple Guide to Surviving Middle School
I've been waiting 6 years for this moment, this dreaded moment when everything changes. I started to watch my little girl transition into a young girl, it it used to be all about cupcakes and teddy bears, now it's iPhones and YouTube. When people would tell me to savor it all, "time flies," I never quite understood. Looking back at how my parenting journey began and how far I've come, I'm quickly made aware of the meaning of that saying. Every few years is a new stage of development, a new territory I don't know how to navigate, and a fresh set of feelings I try to avoid. This post isn't to discuss the fear of the dreaded middle school years, it's to share some of the things I practiced to prepare myself and my daughter for the next phase.
I've always thought of myself as a confident mother, being a teacher for almost all of my daughters life, really gave me a lot of tools to tackle most of the issues that have come up during the past 11 years. However, every now and then I'll get hit with a growing pain and feel lost and completely vulnerable. It has to be the most bewildering experience, you start googling or asking for other peoples experiences/advice (worst thing you could do,) only to be right back where you started...in the lost zone. The one thing I always remind myself of, is that each day begets a new one, and the problem of today will not be the problem of tomorrow. So, instead of stressing and going in circles screaming "what are you waiting for!!!" like some horror movie is becoming of your life, try implementing some of these... Good luck!!!
Know Your Child
We've all heard the horror stories of young kids entering middle school as innocent children, leaving as middle age brats with longer lists of life experience than their parents; however, we have to stop assuming our children will fall into that gap. Knowing who your children are, their personality traits, their insecurities, their weakness and strengths is really key to helping you understand how they'll deal with being in a new environment. If you know you have the kid that falls into peer pressure and doesn't have a strong conviction, then start working on that. In the same breath, if you know your child is extremely fearful and struggles with connecting to people, then start a dialogue with them, make sure they engage in certain activities where they'll shine and flourish. I know with my daughter, she can be introverted at times, does well in her comfort zone, and needs to feel familiarized with her surroundings. I spent the last year of elementary making sure she got involved in something that she could carry on in middle school, I started connecting with families that would be attending her school and began to build on that. Knowing your child is, by far, the most important tool you can when it comes to preparing them for this new journey of middle school.
I let this eat me up... Projecting is never good unless it's your voice in a town hall meeting or discussing sports. DO NOT DO IT!! I was anxious about my daughter graduating and what that meant for the following school year, that I never allowed space to celebrate it. I found myself so concerned about all the negative possibilities of middle school that I would try to have these intense conversations with my daughter all the time. If I saw even the hint of something in her that made me feel like she would be prey, I tried to correct it; all the while, feeding her this energy. Your fears about your kids, should not become their fears about themselves.
We all have nerves about our kids growing up, and that's perfectly fine, it's a sign of our concern, but we have to make sure that we deal with those things on our own. Find your mum tribe, tap into some reading, get yourself involved in activities on campus, write it all down and read it to yourself. Whatever you do, do not project your emotions onto your child. Don't react out of fear, or tighten the ropes because you feel unsure, lean into it, and remember "this too shall pass."
I've mentioned this a few times in this post because it's probably the best way to calm your nerves about your growing child. We use a lot excuses about why we can't be involved in our child's school, social circle, academics... all of them BS. I've been a single mother from the beginning, and when my daughter started elementary I was so nervous that everyone would feel sorry for me or think I was some statistic, so much so, that I became room parent every year, found myself on the board of governance, all while working a full-time job. IT IS POSSIBLE! And during that time, I met some amazing parents, most of which will be our friends throughout all of the changes. Being involved in your child's life doesn't just mean cooking them dinner and checking their homework every night; being involved means getting to know their environment, knowing what their friends are doing and who THEY are, and being an active part of their educational journey.
I've been putting off writing this because I'm still very much dealing with this right now; above all things I've had to deal with as a single mother, this transition has been the hardest. I still question myself and my parenting skills, wonder if I've sown the right seeds, ask myself if I'll make it out with all my hair. I don't know, but I do know that these three things, at the core, bring me back to my center. I hope reading this may help you return to yours...