Middle school represents some of the most formative years of every child’s life. While an incredible amount of growth occurs between grades 6-8, we realize that this is also a time when parents tend to feel most disconnected from their kids. It’s a stretching season as pre-teens discover more about their personal identity in Christ, yearn for independence, and start thinking about the future. The following tips are for families who want to avoid the disconnect and lean into the many opportunities to help their children grow — academically, spiritually, and socially.

Read up on the four main learning styles

Everyone is unique, but most parents will discover that their child falls into one of the four major learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or reading/writing. When you are aware of your child’s natural way of learning, you will be better equipped to partner with them, help them prepare for tests, and prepare for the challenges of high school and college.

Practice active listening

practice active listeningEvery pre-teen wants to feel heard. Active listening is one way that parents can strengthen relationships with their middle schoolers and help them thrive. To be an active listener, one must focus on the entire message being communicated rather than individual words or statements. This involves removing distractions and resisting the urge to interject opinions or advice before your child is finished communicating.

Use positive reinforcement

Middle schoolers respond much better to affirming language than threats or bribes. Rather than trying to motivate your child through continual reminders of negative consequences, help them make connections between positive behaviors and favorable outcomes. This will strengthen their sense of intrinsic motivation and prepare them for independent decision-making in the future.

Help them develop their hobbies

help your child develop hobbiesAll kids have hobbies, but many lack the perspective to see how they can become lifelong passions, or even professions! If your pre-teen gravitates toward a certain activity, try to help them find opportunities to grow their skills. Whether it’s a traveling sports team, voice lessons, or a sewing class, your child will discover a great sense of fulfillment through developing his or her unique gifts, as well as making friends with shared interests. 

Foster healthy habits

Eating healthy meals, having a solid sleep schedule, staying physically active, and avoiding screen overuse can be difficult for people of all ages. Because middle schoolers are in a stage of rapid brain development, they are especially prone to the negative effects of stress. Creating routines for your household has innumerable benefits and will help your child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

Try something new

Kids often have opportunities to try new things, but they don’t always get to see the adult role models in their lives doing the same. If you want to encourage a growth mindset in your pre-teen, let them see how you’re working on your own by developing a new skill, stretching out of your comfort zone, and staying positive through the process. They will be incredibly motivated by seeing perseverance and grit in action. 

Create a culture of service

Children who participate in community service or missions tend to make it a lifelong habit. Serving others also presents an incredible opportunity for family bonding. Think about specific gifts your child has and help them channel those into a meaningful project or volunteer opportunity. If you need inspiration, ask your church about community needs or contact a local nonprofit organization. 

Talk to your child’s teacher

Your child’s teachers can provide additional insight into his or her strength areas. Don’t hesitate to ask about where your middle schooler is thriving and in what areas additional tutoring or support might be needed. Write down your thoughts and questions ahead of time so you can make the most of your conversation. 

Explore Online Middle School

Many parents are discovering that their child has greater flexibility and freedom to reach their potential by completing middle school online. Lenawee Christian Academy provides an engaging learning experience that is tailored to each student and encourages family involvement. Request more information to see how an online education might benefit your family.