Supporting our children during the vulnerable years of middle school can leave us as unsure as they are. The only thing I could think to say to my son is “Middle school is funky”. What else is there to explain all of the confusion during the complex changes happening during the transition from childhood to the teenage years. Every child has a different process. A different duration of transition. A different culmination of that transition. None of it is easy. “Funky” during this time isn’t about stinking or being bad. It’s about most everything feeling uncomfortable, awkward and incomprehensible.
Girls are funky because their bodies change before boys’. They’re towering over most boys and becoming women while boys are still boys. Girls don’t know what to do with the hormones and womanly bodies they are developing, which can make their behavior funky. Our sweet girls are testing their maturity and growth. Trying out new ways of standing and communicating; eye rolls and smart mouthed quips at the top of their list while stuffed animals and dolls still dominate their bedroom decor. Boys are funky because the girls are often times more mature and have physical characteristics that give them a perceived power over boys. Some boys are experiencing secondary muscle development, the majority are still uncomfortable taking their shirts off in public. One day they want to hang out at the mall like they see older teenagers doing, the next they want to bring out the pokemon cards or watch Yu Gi-oh. Academics in middle school challenge students’ capacity for time management and digging deeper in their tool box for advanced study habits, focus and intellectual potential. Even though they had been exposed to Math, Science, History and English, the middle school curriculum deepens their understanding of subjects and increases the amount of work needed to succeed, in a way that makes their heads want to explode.
Middle school is called middle school because they’re in the middle of nowhere. They’re not little kids any more and yet they’re not fully rooted in their teenage-hood either. One of the best things I felt I could do for my son was to let him swim around in the middle. I let him try out his teenage persona when he was feelin’ it, and I honored his decision to take a break from the exhausting work of trying to be cooler and more secure than he really was, to play in the comfort of his more youthful world…with sufficient expectations and no judgment.
Everyone take a breath. Mom, Dad, kids. Middle school is funky. Accept that notion and it all becomes a tad bit more manageable.