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Surviving Planet Middle School

Do you feel like you don’t know your child anymore?  He used to be a sweet kid who used to love spending time with you, then suddenly he develops a smart mouth and a self-centered attitude.  Kevin says entering middle school, when your child is approximately ages 11 – 13, is like entering a different planet for both you and your child. In these turbulent years between elementary school and high school, your child’s expanding universe includes peer pressure, technology influences, and hormone changes which can wreak havoc in your child’s life and in your relationship. If you are feeling caught in the middle Dr. Leman gives parents an SOS to follow:

  • Stay calm. Don’t be drawn into your child’s gale-force winds;
  • Open your mouth only when they ask for your opinion or offer a statement about what happened during their day. Then say, “Tell me more about that.” Never, ever ask them questions; and
  • Shut your mouth before you say anything you might regret.

As a father of five children, Dr. Leman says the middle school years don’t have to cause chaos in your home. You just need to learn how to navigate what he calls Planet Middle School. Your child needs you on his side…as well as all the grace you can muster. To assist your child during this hectic time Dr. Leman offers the following advice: Be their lifeline. Your child needs to float out in the world, to explore and learn, including discovering some things the hard way. But you also need to be that lifeline they can count on.  Be your child’s advocate. There are times when parents need to step in. There are other times when you need to butt out. They key is discerning when to do which. Use food to your advantage. For a tweener, food often does the trick. Be shameless about using it to your advantage.

PEER PRESSURE

Anything that is different about a kid is fair game to peers. It might be a child’s ethnicity, hair color, height, weight, clothing, or anything else. Some of the struggles your child might face at school each day includes: name-calling, shunning, and bullying. Every middle schooler wants to fit in. It’s a lonely time for all kids, even for those who seem “popular.” As parents, let your child know they are special and they don’t have to worry about who’s in the popular crowd and who’s not at school. Remind them to be a friend to everyone and to stand up for themselves.

TECHNOLOGY

If you are afraid of your middle schooler getting sucked into the black hole of technology you’re not alone. Technology is a fact of life that is so pervasive in today’s society with cell phones, video games, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to name a few. You can protect your child by following these guidelines:

  • Cell phones – get your child a basic cell phone (not a smartphone) when she or he will be involved in activities where you are not present. Before giving the child a smartphone be sure to evaluate the maturity level of your child, the need for internet access, and the trust factor.
  • Internet – become proficient yourself, talk with your kids about what they’re seeing, watching and listening to, check the history button on your child’s computer, and be aware of your child’s body language when he’s using social media
  • Social Media – The golden rule of social media should be: Don’t say anything in written form that you wouldn’t want to say in front on Grandma. Encourage your child to say only positive and uplifting things about other people. Caution your child against giving out phone numbers, address, etc. on Facebook. You don’t want to give child predators any head start.

           
SEX ED 101

Your middle schooler is on his or her way to becoming a man or woman. Dr. Leman encourages parents to talk with their tween kids, if they haven’t already, about sex. Discussing hormones, body changes, and sexual information should be a continual process not an isolated conversation. He offers the following advice for parents when talking to your child about sex: (1) be calm and straightforward; (2) call the body parts their proper names; (3) give information about the reproductive systems of both males and females; and (4) share how your values as a family match or don’t match what they will see on television, in movies, and online and why you have those values.

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

The single most important skill every person needs to learn growing up is an attitude of gratitude says Dr. Leman. “Being grateful for what they have creates kids who don’t crumble at the first whiff of failure. They have the drive and determination to power on. Because they see what they have and what others don’t, and they want to make the world a better place.”

  1. Don’t be a martyr. Don’t sacrifice everything for your kids. You’re not doing them any favors.
  2. Every person in your home should have tasks that he or she is expected to do. Being part of a family means working together and pulling your part of the load.
  3. Don’t be afraid to give your child a healthy dose of Vitamin N –no. The world is not about him.
  4. Be happy for each other. Celebrate one another’s successes and rally in difficult times. People who are successful in life know how to get along well with others, treat them with respect, and work as a team player. The place children need to learn that is in their family.
  5. Model unconditional love for your child. Dr. Leman says he always tells his kids he loves them at the end of every conversation.

Most of all focus on building a relationship with your child. Give him or her lots of Vitamin E – Encouragement. Help raise your child into an adult who will be a healthy, giving member of society – one who isn’t “all about me” but “all about we.”

Mentioned in the Video

 

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Guest Info

Credits

NY Times best-selling author, latest, Planet Middle School, (2015)

Appeared on Fox & Friends, The View, etc.

Founder/President, Couples of Promise

Served as contributing family psychologist to Good Morning America

Married: Sande, 45 years

5 children

2 grandchildren

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