School’s Started… Have You Had The Talk With Your Child Yet?

Posted Aug 29 2018, 12:21 pm in , , , , , , ,

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Dear Parents of Middle School Children,


It’s that time of year again…. back to school season. New backpacks, new books, new friends. Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth grades are times for lots of changes for your child. 

This is when puberty hits, typically with hurricane levels of power. 

Puberty is more than just first periods and cracking voices. It’s also a time of profound emotional upheaval for children. Think about it for a moment…. their bodies may look adult and almost fully grown, but their brains are still immature, struggling to process all the physical changes while strung out on surge after surge of hormones. Your children will do their best to separate from you while struggling desperately to fit in with their friends. This is often the time when they will beg you for a smartphone or access to a specific social network. 

Middle school marks some huge changes in your children’s lives. In my case, it almost marked the end of life. 

When my son was in sixth grade, he was the target of bullies who thought it was fun to taunt him because he’d finished puberty. He had the deep voice, the acne, the height…and the body hair to prove it. But inside, he was the same as them. The taunts, the cruelty went on for months… until almost the end of the term. I found out about it because he finally admitted to suicidal thoughts. Yes, I noticed the changes in him. Yes, I tried to talk to him. But I attributed all of those changes and his grunts disguised as communication to puberty. 

And I almost missed it. 

So, as you buy those school supplies and back-to-school clothes and maybe even those smartphones, sit down and have THE TALK with your middle schooler. This could save their lives. Or…maybe someone else’s child. 

  • Insist on the passwords to all social networks you permit your child to use. Monitor those networks yourself. 
  • Establish parameters for selfies they post. Duck face really isn’t that sexy, is it? 
  • Discourage them from sharing posts that disparage or gossip about someone. 
  • Discourage them from sharing personal details, such as their physical whereabouts at any given time. 
  • Encourage them to defend classmates targeted by bullies. Bullies thrive when they have an audience. Remove the audience and there’s no reason for bullies to continue their behavior. Teach your middle schooler to stand UP for people in ways that ensure their own safety. For example, brainstorm ways to get help. Get a teacher versus call 911? 
  • If your middle schooler is a boy, remind him repeatedly that he must control his own impulses. Girls do not exist FOR him. Bra-snapping and upskirting shouldn’t be tolerated or excused. Ever. He doesn’t get to TOUCH any one else unless he has permssion and if he does NOT get that permission, he needs to stop and move on. If he joins any athletic teams, encourage him to discuss what loyalty does and doesn’t mean. There is a fine line between sticking by a friend and enabling wrong choices. Please establish that line. 
  • If your middle schooler is a girl, remind her repeatedly that ‘mean girl’ behavior like excluding others, whispering about them behind their backs, dropping friends because other friends don’t like them, and so on, is wrong. There is a fine line between passive-aggression and bullying. Please establish that line. 
  • Encourage your middle schoolers to think for themselves rather than simply parrot back what others say they should think. This applies to whatever celebrities they admire, as well as their cirlce of friends. Encourage open-mindedness. Just because they like football doesn’t mean everyone has to. And just because they aren’t gay or transgender or Muslim doesn’t mean those things are wrong. 

I find the best times to have The Talk are in the car. It’s often easier for children to speak openly when they’re not looking at you. Understand that this Talk is never once and done. It’s a continual conversation that needs to grow and adapt as your child does. 

Take it from one who nearly lost her middle-schooler. 

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