Embracing the Changes, Challenges, and the New
Nikki (Lanzo) Gonazalez
My husband I recently went to see the movie “Good Boys”, the movie is based around three sixth grade boys who have been friends their whole lives and now as they adjust to middle school, face new challenges, they each start to form their own new identities and it impacts every part of their life. The movie I don’t recommend for sixth graders to watch, I do recommend for parents to watch. The reality is your kids will be faced with a whole lot of new things, and what they start to learn can be somewhat misguided and they will learn at times inaccurate information, their friendships will be challenged, and they will embrace a lot of new things. That is why your role, your acceptance, understanding, and grace are a huge part of this transition in their life.
Your baby… your child… is approaching many new changes. And now there is a new level of independence + mixed with a variety of hormones. So, what do you do with that? How do you embrace the changes, challenges, and the new?
One thing I recommend to parents is COMMUNICATION is critical in identity development. Communication helps to build a child’s self-worth, and not communicating or not-speaking also influences self-worth often in a negative way. Timing of communication is often the key, so think about allowing your kids to have a breather in between school and home. Find a time to sit down with your kids and create an open-door policy and model listening skills. Our children are sponges, and when you model positive communication with your child, your family, friends, and co-workers they pick up on that and they can learn from you (of course they don’t want to acknowledge they have learned from you…sorry parents they might not like you in this new stage of life either and you might not always like them, so choose to love them).
Let your student know that they can come to you when they need to and can express themselves freely in a respectful manner. As parents, some of the new experiences, emotions, and reactions of your middle schooler might feel scary or uncharted that is normal. There may be moments that you may have to refrain from problem solving. Let them learn from mistakes, and problem solve themselves. It encourages accountability. Give them the opportunity to talk through things and strengthen their confidence, their skills, and foster interdependence.
Remember that we must be accepting and validating. Accept their feelings as real, because they are! Everyone has different experiences of the same situation, but our feelings can never be right or wrong. Give your student the space to express that they are sad, angry, frustrated, or anxious (and help them communicate this without being reactive/disrespectful/etc.) “I feel” statements
Foster a relationship with the school counselor. Your child may no longer want to communicate everything with you, but they may want to with the school counselor. The school counselor wants the best for your child, and they are doing their best to help your kids get through some of the most difficult years of your child’s life.