Psst…parents it’s me, the mom of a middle schooler

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By Cheryl Coleman

I feel like my life is in turmoil from 6am – 7am, Monday – Friday. It all started at the end of August this year and is doomed to continue through the middle of June next year. My daughter is in middle school and in her mind, I am simply clueless. Never mind the fact that I have a 27-year old daughter who not only has obviously gone through middle school, but is now an educator (and a damn good one if I say so myself). But to my 11-year old child I am a novice at this parenting a middle schooler.

And in some ways, I think she might be right.

Middle school is a time when many kids regard their parents as being over-protective and just plain lame. By 6th grade, the transition year between elementary and middle school, we find our children wanting to be more independent.  By the end of 6th grade the miracle happens – they have figured it all out. They know absolutely everything there is to know about life and parents? Well, we just simply don’t understand.

In order to help my fellow mothers (and fathers) continue to be the awesome parents they are without going crazy during this middle school stage, I created “The five keys of parental bliss during middle school.” They are in no way scientific methods, but they have been tried in many homes with pretty positive outcomes. Read them. Adopt some. Ignore some. Create some of your own. Whichever you choose, please know there is light at the end of the dark and scary middle school tunnel.

1. Stay Connected

During this time of transition it is important to stay connected and have open communication with everyone included in your child’s growth – your child, teachers, school administrators, clergy, mentors, coaches, etc. Tips to stay involved and be connected include visiting your child’s school and participate in school activities with your child. Follow-up with questions about homework or upcoming assignments. Stay in-tuned with what’s being talked about among your child and his or her peers. The one thing worse than being called an inactive parent is actually being one. Always know what’s going on. Teachers want to know that they have a team of people committed to help your child become the best student he or she can be.

2. Organize, organize, organize!

Helping your child stay organized in 6th grade can be a bit challenging. Middle school is a lot different than elementary school. In a matter of months your child will go from having one teacher for most of their subjects, to having a different teacher for each subject. That means more notebooks, more textbooks, a class schedule, and possessing the ability to keep track of it all. As a parent, there are ways that we can help. Evaluate your child’s habits. If he or she is pretty organized on their own and you think they can handle it, great! Maybe offer tips and do periodic check-ins to make sure they are keeping up with the schedule and are still organized. However, if your child is anything like a typical 6th grader, who can easily forget things or become distracted then perhaps these points are for you:

  • Create a space in your home for school items only. Anything that’s needed for school such as supplies, backpack, lunchbox, etc. goes into this space. Keep this space free from clutter so items are easily found – especially in the morning where the clock seems to be on warp speed and your energy level is on slow motion.
  • Conduct nightly backpack checks. Okay so this one may be a little elementary and hopefully you will only have to do it for the first couple of weeks of school, however, a five-minute backpack spot check can go a long way in ensuring your child has everything he or she needs for the day. And every once in a while, drop a cute note of love in there that will embarrass the hell out of ‘em while they’re in school! You gotta let them know that you care! LOL
  • Use online grading portals. If your school has an online grading portal where you can view your child’s progress, make checking it a part of your daily routine. I feel like I check this portal just like I check my email every day. It’s a sickness, I know, but hey, it’s my child so I’m allowed to be a bit zany at times. ☺

3. Homework can make you cuss…or Google…or ask Alexa. Either way, let’s make homework your friend

Homework in 6th grade gets a little harder and may take a little longer to complete. Continue to have a set time at home for homework. I believe in order to stay on top of grades this is important. A good rule of thumb is to put away all technology (unless it’s needed for the homework assignment) and turn off the television during homework time. They need to be able to focus without distractions in order to complete and understand their work. It is important that you sit down and talk with your child about their homework assignments. I know, I know, this new math drives me crazy too. But what’s important is that they know that they have your support and together you will conquer the homework monsters that be.

4. Friends…how many of us have them?

I’m an old-school hip hop person. I think rap group Whodini said it best “Friend is a word we use every day.” If I can add my own phrase – “especially when you’re in middle school.” Every day there seems to be a new best friend, as well as a new enemy. And as much as your child may want to be the popular kid in school, being a friend first is the most-sure way of attracting true friends to you. What we can’t afford to take lightly is the increased cases of bullying. Perhaps this isn’t happening in your child’s school but we hear stories about bullying all the time. There are signs of bullying. Know them. Watch for them. And if you suspect your child is being bullied, ask questions. Report it to the school. Talk to said bully’s parents. At all costs, protect your child.

5. Sometimes a hug is all any of us need

When I was in middle school getting a hug from my parents was SUPER embarrassing; however, today, I don’t want to start my day without a hug from my daughter. She means the world to me. And even though she might think I’m the strictest mom in the world because I set boundaries and have rules and expectations for her, does not mean she doesn’t appreciate that I do those things out of love. She may not say it or even realize it, but I know she has a sense of security if she knows that mom is there whenever you need her. A hug says it all!