The 10 Commandments of the Middle School Mom
The word "awkward" can be used to accurately describe nearly every aspect of being a mother to a kid in middle school. The transition to a new school at the ripe age of tween is difficult for children, yes, but it's also difficult for parents — mature topics start to come up, boundaries are confusing, your child seems to have multiple personalities, and phases (both good and bad) start coming and going before you can even comprehend what's going on — so mamas, we're here for you.
These are the 10 commandments of the middle school mom that can hopefully get you through those three years without too much drama.
Thou Shalt Be Involved but Not Too Involved
Autonomy becomes more and more of a player during these years of your child's life. They are realizing that they're able to handle — and probably want — a little more responsibility, and they need less of your help to complete daily tasks. They're still young enough to need their mamas and should understand that the rules you set in your home are law for now, but don't hinder their developing independence too much, and try to let little things go.
Thou Shalt Follow Your Child on Social Media
The Internet is a scary place, but your tween is going to want to be a part of it. Rather than be the only mom on the block who disallows social media — which could have the effect of rebellion — set conditions and guidelines for using it, like regular phone checks or parental controls. Follow your kids on everything so that they know mom is seeing what they put out there, and have conversations about what should be on social media and what should be private.
Thou Shalt Encourage Risk-Taking
Getting children out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to take risks academically, socially, and in terms of extracurricular activities is huge at middle school age. Rather than hinder growth and development by encouraging fearfulness, be your child's biggest cheerleader for whatever it is they want to do.
Thou Shalt Allow Mistakes to Be a Learning Tool
When the risks they take don't exactly pan out, using mistakes as a tool will be one of the most valuable things you teach your tween. If they fail but have been taught to embrace optimism and continue trying, the focus becomes more positive, and making mistakes won't be as feared. Model that it's OK to fail at something every once in a while and to make mistakes.
Thou Shalt Not Make Awkward Topics More Awkward
Between the birds and the bees, puberty, the unfortunate but inevitable introduction to drugs and alcohol, and trying to fit in amidst all of the chaos, the last thing a tween needs is for their parents to make things even more awkward. These years are a good opportunity to start talking to your tweens, but not talking down to them about all of the facts of life they're being faced with — keep the lines of communication wide open and try to be their mom: the trustworthy and understanding confidant, rather than their mom: the woman they want to keep everything from. Being able to approach you with anything will make your relationship stronger and make it easier to parent, and it will also prevent situations where something huge is kept from you.
Thou Shalt Not Force Your Glory Days Upon Your Child
Living up to expectations and standards put on by peers, teachers, and the media is hard enough — expecting your child to be an all-state flutist with a 4.0 GPA just because you were is going to make things even harder. It's one thing to talk about your glory days and how you got through your awkward tween years as a way to be helpful and appear less mom, more human — but it's another thing to encroach on their individualism and the way they want to pursue interests to the point where they feel like you'll accept them more if they're like you were, rather than who they want to be.
Thou Shalt Boost Your Child’s Confidence
Pimples, braces, pressure from the media, bullies, and so much more can effect a child's confidence at this age. Many tweens suffer from low self-esteem as they're coming into their bodies and personalities before high school, and no parent wants to see their child being self-critical or shying away from activities because of it. Boost your child's confidence by celebrating their successes (big and small), avoiding comparisons, allowing them to be individuals, building a positive and safe home environment, and offering unconditional love.
Thou Shalt Stop Doing Things For Your Child That He Can Do Himself
With growing up comes an increase in responsibilities, which might mean letting up a little bit when it comes to helping them with everything. Set guidelines for your child's new responsibilities — from schoolwork to house chores and communication in and out of the home — and hold them accountable. Instead of putting clean, folded laundry in their drawers for them, have them fold and put away their clean pile on their own. After school, let it be known that schoolwork should be finished before games and activities begin, but don't stand over them until they're finished. Little jobs introduced into their routine over time will help them to be more self-aware and responsible as they grow up.
Thou Shalt Encourage Friendships, Not Force Them
Friends are a huge aspect of getting through middle school, and while it's normal to want them to befriend the soccer star or the valedictorian, it's more important to make sure that your child is becoming friends with children who share similar interests, rather than forcing them to be friends with children they have nothing in common with, which could make them more uncomfortable socially.
Thou Shalt Remember: It’s Only a Phase
When your child is slamming doors, rebelling against rules, choosing video games instead of schoolwork, taking advantage of your trust, or any other situation that might come up due to that bit of attitude your tween has likely developed — rather than be quick to anger — just remember: it's only a phase. All you can do is your best and try to facilitate growth, maturity, and positivity — they'll come around and be just fine.