Middle School Sucks…For us and them!

Remember that feeling the first night your baby slept through the night?  How about the first time they were able to dress themselves?  Tie their shoes?  Life finally seemed to be getting easier, right?  WRONG!  Just when you think you have raised a sweet, adorable kid…Middle school happens.  There is no other way to describe it.   

As my kids were trying to survive their own battle throughout their middle school sentence, I can remember feeling like a terrible mother because I actually did not like my own children!  How could that happen?  What did I do wrong?  I struggled with the guilt of not wanting to be around my kids and the fact that I must have screwed up raising them somewhere throughout elementary school.  

They Lie!
I couldn’t believe the first time I caught my daughter in a lie.  What was she thinking?  In our house lying was the worst thing you could do and subject to the harshest punishments.  I imagined this was a one time incident….until it happened again, and again, and again!  My husband and I had to really think about what was happening and realized it may have been our fault.  Kids are so afraid of getting in trouble that it may be easier to just lie and hope for the best.  

How we handled it:
What we learned about dealing with this was to stop reacting to things that our kids did wrong.  When they missed a homework we talked about it and figured out a solution together instead of doling out punishments for every infraction.  

They Smell!
What is the aversion to showers, deodorant and brushing their teeth?  Why are kids so turned off to being clean?  I can’t count the number of times my kids got off the bus and I couldn’t go near them because they clearly hadn’t put deodorant on as they claimed to have done that morning.

How we handled it:
I let my kids have a say in what kind of toothpaste, soap and deodorants they bought.  It turns out that they hated the way our toothpaste tasted.  Also, when they picked out their own cleansing products they have a slightly more vested interest in using them.  I still struggled with making sure they wore deodorant, but I decided to let them face the consequences of being smelly in middle school rather than me taking control of their hygiene.  The moment they heard the first snickers from classmates about smelling after gym class I never had to remind them again!

They forget/lose EVERYTHING!
My daughter would have lost her head if it wasn’t attached.  After 3 lost cell phones, multiple missing coats, a lost Kindle, and many incomplete homework assignments, I started to wonder if maybe there was more to this than forgetfulness.  Going into middle school is a huge transition.  Kids face more pressure in their academics, stronger peer pressure, socializing has become more intense and their bodies are changing.  With all of this happening, honestly it is amazing kids survive middle school at all.

What we did:
One thing we realized is that our daughter was never taught how to organize.  We took it for granted she knew how to manage her assignments and keep her things in order, but in fact no one had ever taught her how to do this.  Some kids this comes naturally, but for most others, middle school is completely overwhelming.  We began by speaking to her teachers and asking for their support.  Many schools start their middle schoolers with a planner but don’t explain how to use it.  We sat down with our daughter and the planner and went over some organizational strategies.

  • Write down homework at the START of every class.
  • Keep a post-it on the front and have them write down the books they  will need to pack up in order to do their assignments.
  • Make multiple copies of their schedule so they can have it in multiple books for reference each day especially at the beginning of the year.

While many of our strategies did not produce magic and our daughter did not change overnight, it helped both us as parents and her as the child know we were on the same side and it helped her to trust us so when she struggled she wasn’t afraid to let us know.

I am happy to say we did overcome the middle school years despite the many bumps in the road.  We now have two very successful kids, one in 10th grade and the other about to enter college.  At one time it seemed we would never escape that dreadful time in middle school, but everyone survives and kids become stronger by overcoming these obstacles.


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Author: Jennifer Koliatsis

Jennifer is a middle school English teacher. She lives in Bethpage with her husband and two teenagers. To her, a great night out is anywhere with great people, whether that's at home, a new restaurant, or even a PTA meeting.

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