The pilgrimage from elementary school is an adventure that I remember very little about. I do remember asking a friend to teach me a few words in Spanish so that I could be cool, later to find out what he instructed me to say should not only be followed by soap and water, but should also never be stated directly to a guy twice your size. But we all had moments like that, right? So when my oldest began middle school, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I remember watching him walk away from the car and feeling like I just sent him off to college. They look so grown up, carrying 75 pound backpacks, texting on their smartphones and giggling while hiding any insecurity that may exist. During our first few weeks of middle school I was shocked to know that we had already been offered tobacco products, had rocks thrown at us and I could see he was starting to become deflated. His journey began to trigger a few memories of my own and his experience began to feel all to familiar. I reassured myself that private school probably wouldnt offer any real solutions to these issues, and even if they did, what would happen when he went off to college? We had many conversations about life and some of its follies, but I admit to putting off anything not G-rated in a desperate attempt to remain oblivious to reality. However, I pondered about the experience others were having and found a willing victim in 12-year-old Lauren Alexander, who is not only a new middle-schooler, but moved from one city to another- a double-whammy. I sat down with Lauren to pick her brain a little and thought I would share it with you here.
BeSafe: When you were in 5th grade, what did you think middle school would be like?
Lauren Alexander: “I thought it was going to be hard. Other kids made it sound that way too,” she added.
BS: Do you think elementary school prepared you for middle school?
LA: “They taught us how to do basic math” (math was Lauren’s biggest challenge, but she liked it).
BS: What is your favorite thing about middle school?
LA: Emphatically, Lauren loved the new found sense of freedom. No more walking in lines like miniature soldiers, much less hand-holding. “And you get to talk to your friends.”
BS: What is the hardest thing about middle school?
LA: “Math,” she quipped. “The teacher is really nice and I like the challenge.”
Okay, easy enough. Now it gets a bit harder.
BS: Have you or any friends been offered tobacco products?
LA: Obviously grossed out by the thought, Lauren replied “no.” She had also not personally witnessed any such activities.
BS: Have you or any of your friends been bullied while at school?
LA: “No,” she said after giving it a moment or two of thought. Lauren is in band and attends quite a few other activities and was confident she had not witnessed any. A sigh of relief enveloped me as I took notes while she talked. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
BS:Do you feel like you have been pressured by your friends or others at school?
LA: Again, it took her a few seconds to think it over, but again she replied, “no.” I began thinking to myself that either Lauren was blissfully unaware or she was extremely resilient. I opted to believe the later. That was when it hit me – I didn’t need to worry about the whole middle school experience – if I just concentrated on making my kiddo resilient. I ended our interview by asking Lauren if she had any advice for parents of new middle schoolers. She said that they needed to know it isn’t as bad as others make it sound. “It’s fun,” she said, “you get to do a lot more stuff,” clearly hooked on her newfound freedoms. “It can be difficult sometimes she piped in, but “it’s good,” she assured me.
I quickly realized that perhaps I needed to do this interview just to make myself feel better. And Lauren had done just that. I will probably still go ‘google’ a hundred ways to make your kid more resilient, but that’s all part of the journey right? BeSafe appreciates Lauren for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us.
Here are a few suggestions for building resiliency from the Amercian Psychological Association:
1. Make connections – teach your child how to make friends, including the skill of empathy, or feeling another’s pain.
2. Have your child help others – volunteering allows children to connect and feel like they are a part of something bigger.
3. Maintain a daily routine – kids love routines, whether they admit it or not. It helps keep them on track. Surprises are hard to deal with, when you don’t have the skills.
4. Take a break – keep monotony to a minimum by scheduling fun time. Take walks, listen to music, ultimately, connect with your child without using instruction.
5. Teach self-care – your child needs to be aware of his needs for a healthy diet, adequate exercise, time to destress, identifying their feelings and knowing how to communicate what they need and when.
To read more suggestions like these, visit the APA here