If you ask adults about the point in their school career they enjoyed the least, you can expect a lot of them to respond with middle school. There’s no doubt that middle school can be a challenging period, as it typically coincides with the onset of puberty and the intense emotions of that period. However, there is no one reason why middle school can be an especially hard time for a child.
Why Middle School is Challenging
Middle school can be a difficult time because it’s when a child typically starts to feel less like a juvenile, but they’re also nowhere near to feeling like an adult. Bags in Bulk explains, “middle school can be a difficult time for children due to a number of factors, including the often rocky transition between youth and adolescence and the demands of the academic workload combined with extracurricular activities such as sports.” The difficulty of classes can add a great deal of stress to students in middle school. Even for academically-gifted students, the most complex math like algebra can be challenging. This stress can cause your child to become moody and distant. As a parent, you don’t want to be overbearing, but you also want to make sure that you can be there for them.
The Development of Self-Identity
If you ask an elementary school-age child who they are, they’re likely to take it quite literally and respond with their name. If you ask that to a middle-schooler, they might become very overwhelmed. Be Yourself explains, “finding out who you are is part of life, but the lack of easy answers can be difficult for middle schoolers. Many people (not just those in development) feel like they are always on the outside looking in. Or they feel like everyone else around them has their stuff together and they are the only one struggling or failing.” These feelings can cause a young person to start to do things or join groups that conflict with their sense of morality because they want to feel accepted.
People change in middle school, and it’s not always for the better. Your child might have close friends that they grow apart from in middle school. They might also find themselves comparing themselves to others in terms of things like physical appearance or material possessions. Cult of Pedagogy explains, “There are a couple important things that adults need to understand about middle schoolers. One of the most important is that this is the age that developing minds really start to understand their place in society and within social groups. They are beginning to truly understand their relationship with themselves, each other, and with adults. It’s a tough time.” It’s important to talk to your children about self-esteem and how scrutinizing themselves can only lead to problems. When they believe in themselves, their opportunities really are limitless.
Middle school might be a challenging time, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a completely unbearable time. As a parent, you want to do all you can to work with your child to give them the self-esteem they need to make it through their middle school years. You should also let them know that you are there to help them with any challenges they may be facing. Your support will mean more than they’ll ever know.