Congratulations, parents! You have successfully raised your child into middle school. We know all of the work that goes into teaching and supporting your maturing child, and we’re proud of how far you’ve come. You know better than anyone how challenging it can be to navigate life with a middle schooler. There is one thing that is central to the process, and it is effective communication. Middle school is often the time when children start to pull away from their parents and assert their independence. Your questions about their day are met with grunts and the occasional rolled eye, and it can feel like the two of you are going nowhere fast. If this sounds familiar, you should read on as we dig into some practical ways to establish an effective communication strategy within your home.
We should begin with the fact that effective communication builds understanding and trust within any relationship. It’s more complex than exchanging information with someone. It requires empathy to understand the emotions and intent behind what each person is saying. When you communicate effectively with your middle school child, you unlock a gate to understand them better. You can see their grunts and rolled eyes for what they are, as attempts to establish new boundaries rather than blatant disrespect.
So the question is, why is effective communication important? Perhaps you were raised in a home where there wasn’t an effort to establish communication between parent and child. You were given a directive and expected to follow it. But this one-way-street type of communication leaves little opportunity for parents to peek into their children’s lives and hearts to understand them better as people.
Know What’s Going On In Their Lives
There’s value in keeping tabs on your children’s day-to-day lives. Not to control or fix, but to understand better how their external lives are impacting their internal lives. If you’re out of touch with your child’s life, you might be surprised when they begin to act out or become more sullen than average. It’s hard to understand a person when you don’t know what they’re going through. Interpersonal conflicts that an adult might shrug off can feel like the end of the world to a sensitive middle schooler. The more you are plugged in, listening, and empathizing with your child, the more likely they are to open up.
Guide Them Through Tough Situations
While childhood is much different now than it was when you were growing up, many elements are familiar. Many of us grew up before internet access was as common as it is now. Many parents today didn’t have to navigate social media as middle schoolers, and we didn’t have access to non-stop information in the way that children do today. These facts alone mean that today’s middle schoolers have different issues to contend with than we did. Rote advice that worked when you were a child may not apply to this new generation. Effective communication requires that we listen to our children to better understand the landscape they’re living in. From there we can guide them and help them navigate the highs and lows of adolescence. They don’t want to believe it, but our children need us, and it’s up to us to stay present and open so that we can help them grow into healthy and happy adults.
Be A Good Example
If you want to encourage your children to communicate with you, you must learn to communicate effectively with them. This includes things like talking openly and calmly about your feelings and admitting to them when you’re wrong. We are, after all, humans just like they are. When we allow our children to see our humanity they’re likely to feel less alone. For some people, this means learning how to communicate effectively for the first time as an adult. There is no better time than the present to establish a culture of healthy communication in your family.
It’s easy to look at our children’s generation and compare them to the way we were raised. But it’s simply not a fair comparison. Each generation has its own complications to navigate and as parents, it’s our job to learn their language and help them decipher the world around them in a healthy way. One of the most valuable parenting tips we can give you in this regard is to listen. Create space for your child to communicate with you and treat them with love and respect when they do.
Families have been working through adolescence since the dawn of humanity, and one day many of our children will be raising children of their own and trying to figure out the same thing we’re talking about now. By establishing a line of healthy communication with your children, you can create a change in your family that is passed on for generations. Middle school is tough, but thankfully parents are tougher. If you’re interested in enrolling your student in St. Barnabas’ middle school program, please contact our office.