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April 2, 2014

The Daily Parent: How to build strong supports for your middle-schooler

When parents have very young children, they often feel like they are in the trenches, fighting for basic human rights like the opportunity to take a shower or talk on the phone without interruption. It is not usually a time of great personal reflection because getting through each day can be exhausting.

By the time children enter school and what psychologists call the latency period of childhood, parents can collect themselves and recover from all those sleepless nights and tantrums, and prepare for the next unstable period of childhood — puberty.

One major difference between the difficulties inherent in caring for very young children and those that come with the territory of raising young adolescents is that parents seem to have fewer support systems. No longer members of Baby & Me classes, story time at the library and cooperative nursery schools, today’s parents of tweens and teens are more likely to both be working, to have several children and their numerous activities to manage, and to be more disconnected from their children’s schools. Most middle schools hold parents at arm’s length by design, as well, to discourage hovering and help kids become more independent.

Here are some tips for building support systems while your child is in middle school:

Support System No. 1: Your child’s teachers and school

The home-school partnership is much more than a buzz term. It is the mechanism for ensuring that the necessary communication, agreements, roles and responsibilities of each party are set out clearly and lived out daily.

Read the parent handbook to understand how the school views this partnership. Ask questions, make suggestions and play an active role in defining how this relationship can best support your child. While things are going smoothly — in anticipation of when they might not be — think through the best protocol for expressing concerns to your child’s teachers or members of the administration. Whom should you contact first? Whom should you contact if the first person cannot resolve your concern?

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