The Challenges of Middle School

middle school

Middle school is full of relationship challenges, hormones, physical growth, and emotional juggling. It’s the perfect storm of life change, instability, and learning to adapt in their new world. It’s biologically a really hard time to transition through, with body parts developing, new hair growth, changing voices, added smells, and other things! Mentally, school is getting harder and greater expectations are placed on students as they prepare for high school. Emotionally, it can seem like everything is changing and can feel really unsettling to tweens and teens.

The biggest challenges I’ve experienced have come from adjustments in relationships: Lifelong friends can become part of the “popular crowd” and suddenly aren’t accessible anymore. Other friendships that have lasted nearly a decade seem to fall away for no real reason. Some people are just mean. Or even worse, passive-aggressively off-putting with their nonverbal shrugs, side-eyes, or obvious actions of walking-away mid conversation. Then, there are school crushes and new feelings that arise. Transitioning from friendships with the opposite sex to developing attraction can be challenging too. This time is really hard for friendships. It’s also really hard as parents to support our kids as they navigate this time.

The hard truth is that some people are just going through something on their own and chose to take it out on other people. This is, unfortunately, part of life, even as adults. How we talk to our kids and advise them on handling difficult people or situations is so important: Try to stay kind. Don’t stoop down to their level. Walk away if someone is doing or saying something you don’t like. Be compassionate because that person is likely going through something. Also understand, that every friendship will not serve you your entire life: some people are just meant to be there for a chapter, and that’s ok.

If only we could give our tweens a crystal ball and remind them that we’re they’re dealing with today won’t even matter 10 years from now. It’s a balance of showing empathy for what they’re experiencing right now, but also teaching them that these relationship hardships do pass. Having a trusted adult to confide in can make all the difference. Whether it’s a parent, a counselor, or a friend, we all need a place to turn to for support and advice.

As a parent of a tween, I don’t have any answers on how to navigate this phase of life, except that I try to keep an open dialogue with my child and be as understanding as possible. I try to listen and give a lot of grace. Whether it’s a conflict with a friend, dealing with a difficult teacher, or solving an issue at school, we try to list out all the possible solutions together and then talk about what feels the most right to her as a next step. The middle schools years are challenging, but we can get through them if we take one day at a time and one conversation at a time.

Rachel Harris Ledet
A New Orleans native and entrepreneurial mom, Rachel maintains a daily balance of running her own marketing firm, 30|90 Marketing, managing her kids’ schedules, and maintaining an active extracurricular life including teaching dance, volunteering, and instructing a digital marketing class at UNO. Rachel lives in Mandeville with her best friend and husband Lenny, daughters Addison and Amelia, stepson Luke, and new baby Tucker. With a growing family and a million balls in the air, Rachel keeps things light by continuously learning, spending time with amazing friends, blogging, finding any route to a concert or outdoor festival, and planning her next getaway with her husband. A sense of humor can get you through almost anything, so she tends to surround herself with fabulous and very funny people.

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