Every phase of parenting has unique joys and challenges. As the parent of a ten year old, I’m going to say that this phase we’re in right now–the tween phase–is the first time I am legitimately terrified of messing up my kid.
Some of it’s due to the era we live in. Twelve years into this grand experiment of putting the internet in our pockets and we don’t have norms yet for how and when to bring kids online. (Frankly, they’re already there, so it’s more like how do we do this in a healthy way.)
Some of it’s due to this being the very edge of having her completely under my wing. Now is the time to start the slow unspooling of control and letting her make her bad choices while we provide a soft place to land when she falls. Middle school children are starting to figure out who they are while simultaneously navigating shifting friendships and rapidly changing bodies. Parents have to find a way to set up boundaries and provide loving guidance.
Phyllis Fagell, a middle school counselor who has seen hundreds of children go through this transition, offers compassionate, sensible advice on how to navigate these murky waters. In Middle School Matters, she identifies ten key skills that she thinks are paramount for kids to master and offers concrete ways that parents can help their tweens grow.
The range of topics addressed is wide. She addresses academic pressures, social changes (making friends shifts from being proximity-based to interest-based), and emotional issues (puberty like whoa). She offers suggestions for how to cope with social media, and has separate chapters on issues that may be unique to boys and girls. She touches lightly on how and when to advocate for your child at school and elsewhere, all with a warm, encouraging voice. It was clear to me that Fagell enjoys working with this age group, and that she wants you to enjoy your tween as well.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I hadn’t even finished the third chapter before I told my husband that he was going to have to read this. He’s been pulling his hair out with our daughter over the last few months, and I think he’ll benefit from some of the tools presented here.
Before I go, I do want to evangelize about one tool that I learned of in the book that I put to use immediately: www.amaze.org. This site has a number of videos very broadly about sex education that are appropriate for children 6+. They address puberty, gender identity, intimate partner violence, and mood swings, among other topics, in short, kid-friendly animated videos.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided via NetGalley in order to facilitate this review.