My youngest daughter, Halle, starts 7th grade in a couple of weeks. I’m as nervous for her as I was her three older sisters. Here is why…
Middle School is a tough time for kids as hormones, peer pressure, and societal stereotypes seem to kick in full force at this age. It can be confusing leaving childhood behind and heading into the world of a teenager…especially if they aren’t ready. I think it is extra hard on girls as they are bombarded with the message that their worth as a person is based on what they look like and how much sexuality they exude. Classes and learning seem to be overshadowed by clothes and hair and makeup and boyfriends.
Middle School, or in my case Junior High, was quite painful for me. I began 7th grade quite secure and confident and felt totally beaten down and defeated by the end of 8th grade. By the end of my 9th grade year, my life didn’t feel as tragic and I had regained a bit of confidence. But it was a rough road, and one I hoped my daughters would not have to experience.
A couple of years ago I was whining to my dentist’s receptionist, also the mother of four daughters, about my teenage daughter and how frustrated I was with her. I asked her for some advice and reassurance, which she kindly offered, and then she wisely said, “I think we forget how hard it is to be a teenage girl.” So true and so timely. I try to remember that advice every day and I hope it is helping me be a better mother.
As I prepare to navigate my fourth daughter through these years, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned.
10 Tips for Middle School Girls and Their Moms
1. Maximum Listen…Minimum Respond. Each of my girls really needed to unload when they came home from school (in high school also), and it was important that I let them talk and talk and talk. It was also important that I not give too much feedback or advice. The more they talked, the more they seemed able to work through most of their issues on their own.
2. Lots of Friends and Lots of Activities. A variety of activities and groups insures that they will have a variety of friends and interests. Inevitably, friends and interests change through these years, and this will help them navigate these changes more smoothly. One of my daughters had two different groups of friends that decided, overnight it seemed, that she was no longer part of their group. Devastating and so difficult, but she had other groups of friends at church and in school government that she could spend time with.
3. Develop Talents. This is a great time for girls to try lots of new things and learn what they are good at. During the middle school years I have had daughters taking violin, piano, voice, or dance classes. They were also swimming, running, playing volleyball, soccer, tennis, and basketball. They took drama classes and performed in musicals and plays. It was a good time for them to discover what their interests were and get a boost of self-esteem by getting better and better at what they were naturally good at.
4. Be involved. Student Government was a great way for my girls to participate in school activities. They made more friends, learned to work well with adults, and experienced the importance of community service. They also learned to deal with big disappointment when they lost school elections. Riley lost a 7th grade election by 1 vote, but she ran again the next year and was elected 8th grade class president. It kept her busy and happy through that year. Lainey just finished her 8th grade year as Class Historian and told me almost every day how much she loved Student Government.
5. Hygiene and Makeup. Girls need to learn that hygiene is important. They will actually need to be reminded, encouraged, prodded, and sometimes forced to take a shower, brush their teeth, and wear deodorant. On the other hand, they will be happy to spend hours shaving their legs and experimenting with their hair and makeup. My goal in this area is to teach them to be clean and remind them continually how naturally beautiful they are.
6. Drama, Drama, Drama. So much drama and unkindness in middle school life! I’ve learned that the girls that were usually the most unkind were also the most insecure, and I tried to help my girls understand that. They will need lots of extra hugs and reassurance through this time.
7. Don’t Be a Middle School Mom. Not sure if it is our small town or if it is a wide-spread phenomena, but there are moms here that are living their lives vicariously through their teenage daughters. They are on a relentless campaign to popularize their daughters and their daughters are paying a price. These girls grow up too fast and generally become promiscuous at a very young age. So sad to see a 12 or 13 year-old that dresses and acts like she is 18…or a 15 year-old, going on 20.
8. School and Grades. When did school cease to be about learning and progressing? Remind your girls that they go to school to learn and expect them to do that, and do it well. Send the message that what you put in your mind is infinitely more important than what you put on your body. And make sure their teachers remember that, too.
9. Values. Make sure your girls have values and meaning in their life, something that helps them make good choices and something that reminds them of their own value and worth.
10. Dreams. Let them have their dreams…whatever they are. They need to plan and believe that they can do big things because they most definitely can. But they also need to understand that it is their life and their dreams and whatever they want to do it is important and meaningful.
Do you have any middle school-aged girls? Is there any advice you would add to this list?