Middle School and Social Media – Life Skills/Coping Strategies are Critical!
A decision has been made. It was necessary given the circumstances. Bella, my 8th Grader, will not be returning to school for the remainder of the year. We’ll be home schooling and eliminating all social media for now. Wish all parents knew what kids are dealing with today. Just because your child doesn’t talk about things doesn’t mean they’re o.k. Guess what? Even when you encourage communication, your child will not reveal 100% of what goes through their head. Schools are not able to adequately cope with what is happening when there is a large student population.
I am deeply disappointed (but not really surprised) that when a parent offers to volunteer and even meets a school liaison to discuss a plan, the efforts are met with what can’t be done versus what can. (No, this will not stop our efforts. If anything it makes it more evident that there is a need to continue!) Please parents! Get involved and push for additional training when it comes to crisis intervention, management of social media/communication that occurs with students, and the necessity to address coping strategies and life skills. Teachers and School Counselors need resources and support from administration. Administration needs the support from the District. (It’s a modern-day version of the children’s classic “This is the house that Jack built.”) Each component needs to be in place starting with a supportive foundation. This will only occur if we continue to push for changes.
Remember years ago when “writing across the curriculum” was the sound bite for schools? Yeah….Now let’s get on board with how to encourage healthy relationships with others…and with self! Communication via social media has become a challenge, an enigma that requires management, and sometimes even a toxin to our children. They are not ready for many of the negative interactions that occur. Much of the dissonance happens due to the complexities of BRAIN development. Middle School can turn into a freakin’ nightmare. I have given my child “permission” on more than one occasion to:
- Take care of her own heart and well-being. (Turn off the phone, set limits, respect boundaries, etc…)
- Eliminate distractions that eat away at her time, her soul, and her ability to filter truth from fiction.
- Let go of her expectations that she can change someone who does not want to be changed. (Boyfriend/Girlfriend relationships at this age combined with the impact of social media can be unforgiving and heart breaking.) Telling your teen that they are too young to feel “in love” won’t get you far. Their feelings are real, and to invalidate those feelings is counterproductive.
- Release herself from the desire to “fix” someone at the risk of putting aside her own needs.
- Love herself for all the wonderful, caring qualities she possesses. (Reminders are so important.) As my daughter said, “I don’t want you to compliment me just to make me feel better. I just need to know when I’ve done something that is impressive. I need to know I matter.”
- Work toward self-acceptance.
- Seek help from school counselors and other professionals. (Be an example of acceptance with regard to professional mental health care, consultation with the pediatrician, and collaboration with the school.)
- Vent and Express emotions. (Hiding behind a false smile to protect the feelings of your family is not healthy.) Children will worry even if you’ve done everything possible to reassure them.
Social Media was not always a problem. It may start out as a way to find support from other classmates who are adjusting to Middle School. At some point things could shift and became toxic. Imagine how you feel as an adult when someone doesn’t get your point of view. Add hormone changes from puberty, family dynamics, pressure from school to maintain grades, and what we know about brain development for Middle School – High School age students. Mix it up and shake it until all those factors erupt into a stew of socially strained sludge and you get a mess of reactions. Often there will be consequences and repercussions that can created havoc on your developing child.
Stress can manifest itself in many ways including physical and emotional disease processes. We cannot keep our kids in a bubble, so it is important to teach them how to manage the stresses they encounter. The first step is recognizing that it is OK as a parent to reach out for assistance; even though it means admitting that it is impossible to be all things to our children. A “Team” approach is a great way to look at this situation. Imagine how wonderful it will feel to let go of the illusion that you are the only thing your child needs. We live in a complex world. We have a million responsibilities and never enough time to feel we can adequately cover it all.
The medical profession has many “specialization” for this very reason. One doctor alone could become overwhelmed by the myriad of diagnoses and treatment options without the ability to consult with colleagues and specialists. Why do we as parents feel any different when it comes to admitting it is often necessary to consult outside of our family circle. Yes, it can be scary. Yes, it can be intimidating. Yes, we might feel judged. But we also want our children to know it’s a great gift to collaborate. It’s a great gift to feel validated and find answers to your concerns. It is a great gift to learn how to manage your emotions, communicate your needs, and solve problems in a systematic manner versus being in continuous “crisis management”.
Advocacy is a life skill that is valuable. It can be challenging to speak up for yourself and/or for those you love. But it is necessary to demonstrate advocacy so your child has the opportunity to learn by example. Here are a few resources that showed up on searches regarding “Brain Development and Middle School.” Sometimes it helps to demystify the reasons why our children act a certain way.
Excellent Resources to Explain Brain Development/Expectations for Middle School
Brain Development in Young Adolescents
Adolescent Brain Development By Jill Pertler
Updated on May 14, 2014
“Growth and change are an integral part of adolescence. Studies on the brain during the last decade show that it — along with height, weight and hormones –goes through dramatic changes during the middle school years. While outward changes are easy to see, brain development goes much deeper, but it can go far in explaining how and why your child does what he does.”
A Quick Look Into the Middle School Brain By: Emma S. McDonald http://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Principal/2010/J-Fp46.pdf
Note from Dynamically Balanced Parenting: This article has excellent strategies for Middle School Teachers. It may also provide ideas to parents for home adaptations.
Brain Facts! Fun facts about development in the middle school brain
Note from Dynamically Balanced Parenting: This list is short and sweet, but gives great tips.
A Few Reasons to See The School Counselor: http://www.bluevalleyk12.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=31447&
To Share Feelings
Loss of a loved one
Help with a family concern
Being teased or bullied
Making new friends
Tools to make good choices
Inside the tweener’s brain What insights can neuroscience offer parents about the mind of a middle schooler? By: Hank Pellissier
More information can be found by searching: Brain Development and Middle School. Can’t find what you’re looking for in your search? Contact me with your questions and I may be able to locate a site for you.
Disclaimer: “Dynamically Balanced Parenting” is written by a parent and free-lance writer. No professional counseling/treatments on these topics or any topics presented here are to be inferred or implied. Please seek the advice, opinions, and recommendations of your Family Health Care Provider, Pediatrician, School Counselors, and/or Mental Health Care Professionals in your Community. The purpose of this site is to offer information, education, and inspiration for parents to seek further professional advice based on their individual concerns.
If you or a loved one is suicidal, or if you need to know what to look for, you can go to:
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255
Note from Dynamically Balanced Parenting: This phone number was called and verified on 03/23/2016 at 2:25 a.m. A representative was informed that I would like to post the number on this site, and confirmed that this is a well advertised number. My call was answered promptly and the phone tree was very brief so I heard a human voice within less than 1 minute. Take time to learn this number! Teach your children what signs to look for in themselves and in their classmates! Their lives depend on it!