By Whitney Fleming
Do you have kids in middle school? It’s the worst, right?
I mean, even science says so. Research from Arizona State University found that mothers of middle-school children, between 12 and 14 years, were most stressed and depressed, while mothers of infants and adults had better well-being.
Middle School Girls
I get this because I have three daughters in middle school right now. That is a whole lot of puberty in my house.
But even though it’s hard to parent middle schoolers, we all remember how tough it was to be a middle schooler.
In the beginning, my kids and their friends worried about remembering their locker combinations or receiving tardies because they were late to class. But as time goes on, their worries evolved too.
Here’s what middle school girls worry about the most:
Standing out. While adolescent girls struggle to discover their authentic selves, they stress about standing out in any way. Especially if it is something outside of their control. This could mean being the tallest, struggling in school, having bright red hair, too many accolades for academic success, developing acne, or anything that makes them feel different than their peers. As parents, we need to continue to focus on their strengths and provide our children with role models that embrace their differences.
What Middle School Girls Worry About
Staying connected to—and gaining acceptance of—their friends. Let’s be honest: middle school girls care more about their friends’ opinions than really anything else. Middle school can be a particularly difficult time for girls, especially because of the frequent rotations into and out of friend circles, the emergence of strong personalities, and newly formulated cliques and social hierarchies. Many tween and young teens feel an incessant need to keep connected to friendships. Regardless if they are healthy or not. That means they do stuff that their parents don’t understand.
This may include not turning in a group assignment because a friend didn’t carry their weight. Or no longer drinking chocolate milk because their BFF said it was babyish. Texting and social media often drive these relationships, causing girls who do not yet have access to this technology to feel left out. Parents shouldn’t engineer their middle schooler’s personal relationships. But mom and dad should encourage their daughter to participate in activities that will help them meet new people and build upon their current friendships. But be wary of talking negatively of a friend you disapprove of as it’s always best to let your child discover that for herself.
Disappointing their parents. Tweens and young teens often start acting like they don’t care about what their parents think. In reality, it is quite the opposite. They often ache for their parents’ approval and long to hear they’ve done a good job. This includes school, athletics, social situations or simply completing a task. When a pubescent girl hits the surly, moody stage, however, offering praise can be difficult for mom or dad, although it’s the most important time to provide it. While it’s important for all kids to hear affirmations from their parents, for young teen girls who are bombarded with negative messaging, it can be the only time they receive it.
Their bodies. Walk into any middle school, and you will notice that some girls look like full-fledged women while others still appear in grade school. Adolescents are in constant wonder about what their bodies may do next. Will that pubic hair ever stop growing? Will my breasts get bigger? When will I get my period? Ugh, another zit on my chin! Is that my BO?
As parents, it’s our job to help them understand what is going on with their bodies and that development is different for every person. But don’t focus too much on her particular body, because no young girl wants to be noticed for what she doesn’t like about her appearance.
Grades. Middle school is often the first time kids get segmented into different groups for academics. While some girls may be used to getting top marks, a more challenging curriculum can stress a young girl out. Parents need to remind their daughter that everyone has different strengths, and the focus needs to be on effort, not on performance. It is also an excellent time to encourage your daughter to build relationships with their teachers and ask for help when they need it.
Whitney Fleming is a freelance writer, social media consultant and digital asst. editor at Your Teen for Parents. She is the mom to three teen/tween daughters and resides in the suburbs of Chicago. Find her on Facebookor Instagram.