How are my beliefs different from my parents? From my friends???
What do I want to be when I grow up????
Who am I!?!?!??!?
Ahhhh the mind of a middle schooler is fraught with seemingly never-ending questions. A commonly held belief is that middle school is a time of intense inner conflict, social turmoil, and unrelenting awkwardness. When I tell people that I work with middle school students, there is usually a cringe accompanied by a sympathetic comment. How many of us would want to go back to middle school and do it again? I would suspect that not many would be very keen on that idea. However, I am here to challenge that line of thinking! What if middle school could be seen for all of its wonder instead of for its hardships and challenges??
Upon taking a closer look, middle school can be seen as a time of incredible physical and cognitive growth. Other than infancy, there is no time in the human lifespan when so much developmental change is occurring in such a short period of time. Imagine if we treated the developmental achievements of puberty with the same sense of wonder that we measure babies during infancy. Our perspectives might include more awws than cringes with less dread and more celebration. The truth of the matter is that middle school is a fantastic time in the life of an adolescent AND for their families. You read that right!
The brain of an adolescent is changing every day. Middle schoolers begin to experiment with non-verbal forms of communication, exhibit flexibility in their thinking, and explore more opportunities for independence. They endure rapid growth spurts, experience voice changes, and develop more sophisticated motor skills. Have you ever had to tell your teenager to mind their tone of voice? Congratulations! Your child has achieved proficiency with a non-verbal developmental milestone. Have you ever had your child question long-standing household rules? Amazing! They are now able to think about things in a dynamic, flexible manner. Does your child discreetly text under the dinner table or swipe unauthorized screens from their iPad to display their homework assignment instead whatever site they were on? Incredible! Those fine motor skills are becoming more and more refined each day.
Whether you are a parent of a child who is currently in middle school or a parent who has yet to experience the middle school years, I would encourage you all to take a step back and apply a developmental milestone lens to some of the behaviors that make you think, “What happened to my sweet, adorable child?” and instead ask yourself, “What milestone is this behavior reflective of and what can I expect next?”. It just might make the growing pains of middle school feel more rooted in wonder and excitement as you embark on the journey to adulthood with your adolescent.
The Churchill School and Center, a K-12 coeducational college preparatory day school in New York City, is dedicated to working collaboratively with students, educators, and families to help children with language-based learning disabilities realize their full potential.