5 Tips for Surviving the Junior High Years

I recently got an email from a former student of mine who is now in college (yep feeling pretty old right about now…) asking me to give her some tips on working with Middle School students.  As I was writing down some ideas that work in the classroom… I thought hey…these are good tips for parents as well…because let’s face it… sometimes the only way to survive the Jr. High years of our kids is to band together, duck and cover, and hope we survive.

Really, really great advice on surviving junior high, glad I came across this!So here are some Junior High “survival” tips that have worked for me:

1. Remember who you are dealing with…tweenagers and baby-teenagers!  These are the kids that have one foot in both worlds… the kid world and the adult world.  Throw in some raging hormones and you got some good times!  One minute they are loud, crazy and obnoxious and then when you least expect it they do something extremely kind and thoughtful.

Don’t always take what they say to heart.  They are just starting to figure life out and many times parents and teachers get caught in the crossfire.  Why? Because we are the safe adults in their lives. And during a time when their bodies & lives are changing so much… they need safe & consistent adults in their lives.  They will just never admit it! :)

I figured out something a few years ago.  When it comes to the lovely Jr. Higher… pay attention to their actions… not necessarily their words.  If you tell them to do something and they complain or tell you they’re not going to…while they are doing what you asked… ignore the words… you’ve won the battle. They are just trying out that new thing called maturity and have no idea how or when to use it.  (I’ve come to secretly enjoy watching a student sputter on… “I’m not doing this assignment.  This is dumb…” as he is getting out his textbook and paper… to do the assignment. )

Now I realize that many of you are thinking… but what about teaching kids to be respectful?!?  And yes… I’m a BIG FAN of the respectful teenagers, but… there might be a better time to have that lesson… like when emotions aren’t running high. And believe me there will be plenty of opportunity to have those lessons! Absolutely expect your tweenager to help out and with a cheerful attitude. But also expect a few hissy fits because you had the audacity to expect him/her to work AND have a good attitude.  Sometimes you need to choose your battles, my friend, choose your battles.

2. Be consistent.  Kids love boundaries.  They crave them! (But again they will NEVER admit to this!) There is safety in knowing what the rules are and they will be enforced. BUT… it is also their nature to test and push those boundaries.

Figure out what are your core values–your “non-negotiables” –and hold firm to those. (BTW… the earlier in your kids’ lives you do this… the easier the battles are when they are older because the boundaries have already been established…a battle with a 3 year old is way easier than with a 13 year old…)

3. Spend time with your teenager. Yes… it will be hard to find time… they are BUSY.  Yes… they will roll their eyes at you or mope about it… but it’s THAT IMPORTANT.  Yes… they will push and buck against you “getting in their space” but this is a time in their lives they need you the most.

Trying how to figure out how do this?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Utilize your car/van time.  Sadly for us, the “family supper” has become a rare occurrence with the sports/activities schedules of two teenagers.  But we have turned our “drive time” into time connecting with our kids. There have been many important conversations that have taken place in our vehicle.  One important factor to making this work… limit texting & headphone time.  It’s hard to carry on a conversation if your teenagers have headphones on the entire time. We have “no headphones or texting” times in our van.
  • Go on a date with your baby-teen.  My son loves to do this since it usually means shopping for clothes for him.  I love it because we spend time talking in the van or over a meal.
  • Tuck them in at night sometimes.  Yes… I mean your teenager.  (Probably not on the nights they have a friend over… or you will never hear the end of it.)  But every so often, go into their territory—their room—to say goodnight to them. It’s amazing the things you can learn from your teenager in the quiet, dark of a bedtime.  And if your teenager’s room looks anything like my teenager’s room, good luck getting back out of the room in one piece after the lights are out.
  • Watch a movie or TV show together.  My son and I have a favorite TV show we always watch together. (Same goes for my daughter.)  Sometimes we let others in the family watch with us… and sometimes it’s just us.  It’s a very simple thing that creates a common interest.

4. Have fun with your tweenager.  When you can laugh with your Jr. High kid, it really helps balance the other times when living with them is not so enjoyable.  I have discovered my two kids are HILARIOUS!  My daughter and I love being silly and crazy together.  And unfortunately (for me) my son has discovered it’s much harder for me to get after him about something if he can get me to laugh (which he does way too much)!

5. Have high expectations. (I know this sounds like something that came from an inspirational poster… but it’s true!) Given the chance to prove their maturity and independence… the baby-teenager will amaze you with what they can do.  It is time for them to grow up… let them.  Give them more responsibility… more independence.  Yes there will be a learning curve… but that’s why they’re called the teenage years!

And… if you look at the Bible… God had a tendency to pick a certain group of people to do great and amazing things… teenagers! (Mary, David, Daniel…)  He knew that teenagers, given a chance, could do mighty things!

For those of you who have been through the Jr. High years with your kids and are alive to tell about… please share some other ideas with those of us that are still in the trenches!

 – Beth

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