Maybe your middle school kid is not actually aware of it, but their hormones are taking control of their bodies and minds. That is why they are so desperately unpredictable, difficult, defiant, flaunting, sulky and at times clingy. But have you, as a parent, ever wondered what is really going on inside the middle schooler’s mind and what makes them tick? Here are 10 things they really want to tell you. Are you listening?
1. I am reckless for a reason
Why does your teen ignore your warnings about scary skateboarding dares, smoking, sex, drugs and drinking? What is really happening here is that the teen’s part of the brain which controls rational decisions, the prefrontal cortex, is not yet fully developed. The thrill seeking part of the brain, the amygdala, is still in control. That means risk- taking and reckless behavior is still enormously attractive for the teen
While parents will want to make sure that their children are aware of certain limits and mortal dangers, that is no reason not to let them try out new things and take certain risks. Yes, this will probably get messy but the alternative is wrapping up your kid in cotton wool.
2. I want you to show me love
“Having kids – the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings – is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”- Maria Shriver
Parents are so often obsessed with the end goals of raising great kids, that they forget about showing them affection and love often enough. This is the view of Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist. Teens are often deprived of love and affection and feel that their bad behavior is getting far too much attention.
3. I need encouragement, but you do not mention my strengths often enough
Often, parents can ruin a kid’s self confidence by a careless, throw away remark. Having low esteem is a major problem among teens. They can feel incompetent, inadequate, ugly or unlovable. Some estimates say that about 70% of teenage girls tend to avoid daily activities (even going to school) when they are not confident about their body shape and how they look. Up to 38% of boys may start taking steroids because they are dissatisfied with their body shape.
Parents can really help by making sure that they always mention their teen’s strong points. They should also resist the temptation of mentioning a friend who happens to be perfect and that they should copy them. This can be soul destroying and may seem that you are setting unreasonable standards.
4. I need to talk to you about a few things, but will you listen?
Did you know that 48% of children and teens have experienced some form of bullying? It seems to reach its peak around the 6th and 7th grades. The most important thing is to be able to look out for some signs of bullying, such as not wanting to go to school, loss of appetite, or an unwillingness to take part in favorite activities. Bullying may not be the only issue that is causing this withdrawal.
Teens, in spite of all their eye rolling, banging doors and sulkiness, need a shoulder to cry on or just some advice and support. One good way to encourage this is to ask and listen about what is going on at school. Try to empathize with them so that when things go badly, you are more likely to be in the loop. Also, resolve not to interrupt or offer advice straight away. Teenagers usually assume that a lack of interest on your part is synonymous with neglect.
5. I do not need to be nagged to do things all the time
You know the usual things, showering, getting up in time, tidying up, doing homework and being home by a certain time. But are you nagging your middle schooler too frequently about these? If you are, then you might be making matters much worse. Do you nag when they are watching their favorite TV show? Do you do it when you are in a bad mood or irritated? If so, you need to step back and try not to overwhelm them with these constant reminders. The teen knows he or she needs reminding but enough is enough!
6. I need my down time
There will be times when your kid just wants to chill out and play a video game in his or her own room and not be interrupted. They need this breathing space just like parents do. Many parents are just too overbearing and do not realize this.
7. I am under a lot of pressure
There are so many pressures coming at middle schoolers from all directions. There are pressures to study and compete for the best grades in the classroom and on the sports field. Then there is peer pressure to fit in with their social network, conform to certain patterns of behavior and to even look the same as everyone else! This peer pressure is not always so negative because teens can be socially stimulated or persuaded to try new activities and study harder.
The best way that parents can help teens deal with negative or doubtful peer pressure is to make sure that their values are sound and sensible. Parents should talk to them about how to make wise decisions based on these values. It is a great way of finding out what is really going on, if your teen decides to confide in you, of course! Most teens will open up only when they are sure that they will not be criticized or reprimanded.
8. I am not getting your full attention as you are always on your smartphone
According to Dr. Jenny Radesky, a paediatrician at the Boston Medical Center, parents are not giving their kids their full attention during prime time. The reason is that they are spending too much time on their smartphones. This was observed by her and her team when studying family groups eating out at fast food joints in Boston.
This study was about young kids, but the lesson applies just as much to teens as they often feel that they are not getting full or any attention from their parents when they want to confide in them or talk to them. One great way to ensure your full attention is to ban all mobile devices during mealtimes. You should also ensure that when your teen wants to talk, you are not answering an email or surfing the Internet. Just turn away from the computer to give your teen your full attention.
9. I need lots of food, but I often find the fridge is empty
Teens are growing at a fast rate. They need lots of food and one great way is to encourage them to go for healthy food options rather than junk food. They are also under enormous pressure to conform to the media’s brain washing about the ideal body shape, not to mention the peer pressure about this.
One great way to put this into practice is to ensure that there is enough healthy food available. If your teen finds the fridge empty, there is no other option but to go out and get some fast food. Why not talk about food as often as you can and also post this cheat sheet on your fridge so that all of the family is up to speed on this?
10. I cannot tell you everything
Teens need their privacy to bond with friends. They do not want to share with you what they are talking about on Instagram or Twitter. They have their own private jokes and they do not want to be asked about them. Certain limits of privacy need to be respected.
Now that you know what is going on in the teen’s mind and body and the issues that are assailing them every day, you may be able to help them more by empathizing and showing your love and affection.