How to Talk to Your Middle Schooler so They Listen

First, do not try to be their friend. Remain their parent, and they will learn to trust more because you do not waver in the love you have for them. My mother used to tell me when I was a teen, “I love you enough to let you hate me.” Meaning she was willing to take the risk of saying no now in order for me to be able to make better choices for myself later on.

Later on, for me, is now. My two teens, specifically my middle schooler, are struggling with the divorce between their dad and I. We are in the middle of moving, getting ready for movers, buying new home d├ęcor, shifting bedrooms all over the place, etc. It’s a lot. Thankfully, their dad hired a professional moving company to lift the heavy loads to at least take that stress off their plates. But the conversation about breaking up one home and moving into two is undoubtedly difficult.

There is hope, and there are some things to learn and focus on in the meantime. Here is a quick list of suggestions to consider:

  • Understand the developmental phase
  • Take the small stuff seriously
  • Find a neutral zone
  • Know your triggers
  • Be clear your love is unconditional
  • Don’t put the burden on them to ask for help
  • Experiment with different forms of communication
  • Treat arguing and complaining as productive

How do I talk to my teenager about moving?

There are some things you can do ahead of time.

Below are some tips:

  1. Prepare in advance. Start talking about the move well before the event
  2. Don’t rush. Don’t rush the packing or the actual move
  3. Save their stuff
  4. Try to keep them in the same school
  5. Help maintain old friendships
  6. Validate their struggles
  7. Get professional help

How does moving affect a teen?

Research shows that changing residences could cause various other problems during the teen years, including lower grades, deviant behavior, problematic friendships, and weak school engagement.

A study of 7th and 8th graders found that those who moved once between those grades had lower reading and math scores the following year, regardless of their previous academic achievement.

Another study showed that students who experienced multiple residential moves during their adolescent years were more likely to report higher rates of fighting, truancy, and destruction of property.

The good news is that there are things you can do to ease the transition for your middle schooler. By being aware of the challenges they may face and making a plan to address them, you can help your child thrive during this time of change.

Understand the developmental phase

Middle school is a time of significant change, both physically and emotionally. Most kids enter puberty during these years, which can bring about new challenges and feelings. It’s hard enough dealing with all the physical changes going on in their body; adding a divorce and peer issues on top of it all will most likely lead to a mental health issue, if not a crisis. Let them know you are there; always.

At the same time, they’re also trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. With all of these changes happening at once, no wonder middle school is such a challenging time for children.

As a parent, being as understanding and patient as possible is essential. I know I struggle, but when I sit back and remember that they are still learning to deal with all of these changes, they may not always handle things the way I want them to. 

Know which “mountains” to die on. A friend of mine who has grown children suggested to me when my teens were acting out that I needed to decide, “Is this mountain I want to die on?”. Chances are it’s not as bad as we think. By practicing this thought, my teens will go through what they need to go through but without me freaking out over it and making it worse.

Take the small stuff seriously! These kids are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. So, even though what may seem like a minor issue to me, such as not wanting to wear the same clothes as their friends, could be a big deal for them.

Arguing over something like this can escalate quickly, so staying calm is important and avoid getting into a power struggle. Instead, try to look for a compromise. Remember the “mountain.”

What is the most important stage of development?

Recent brain research indicates that birth to age three are the most critical years in a child’s development. So take heart, parents! If you did your job well when they were little, no worries; they will remember those early teachings later and will come out of this crummy adolescence stage healthy and all in one piece. As my mom would say (and I’ve seen it on bumper stickers), “Kids; just love ’em.”

How to talk to your middle schooler so they will listen? 

In conclusion, when talking to your middle schooler so they will listen,  keep the lines of communication open at all times, look for a compromise and never give up on them. I know I am not giving up on mine!

Always keep the lines of communication open with your middle schooler and be available to listen when they want to talk. Try not to interrogate or problem-solve, but simply offer support. Be involved in their education and extracurricular activities, and help instill good study habits and organizational skills. Finally, know that the transition to middle school is significant and that many problems are just a normal part of growing up.

The teenage years can be challenging, but they don’t have to be a total nightmare. By understanding the challenges your middle schooler is facing and being there for them, you can help them through this time of change. Just remember to take it one day at a time, and things will eventually get better. Good luck, parents ~

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