How to talk to your middle-schooler (so they might actually listen to you)

By Phyllis Fagell August 20

The Washington Post

(James Yang/for The Washington Post) By Phyllis FagellAugust 20 at 9:00 AM

My friend Michelle Hoffman’s son Alex, 13, was an open book when he was in elementary school. “If something good happened, we heard about it; if something bad happened, we heard about it,” she says. But in seventh grade, he entered what Hoffman calls “his grunting phase.”

“I’d ask, ‘How was school?’ and he’d say, ‘Eh.’ ” His processing shifted from external to internal, she explains, adding that, “suddenly, we weren’t part of it, and that felt really bad.”

Middle-schoolers need their parents’ support as much as — if not more than — when they were younger, but as a school counselor, I know this is when once-foolproof communication strategies can stop working. Tweens can bewilder their parents by toggling inconsistently between seeking affection and demanding privacy, soliciting advice and asserting independence.

Here are eight ways you can disrupt that dynamic, and stay connected to your child during a phase that’s defined by contradictions and flux.

Understand the developmental phase

Your middle-schooler is becoming less childlike, and “one of the forms this takes is wanting to share less with one’s parents because to kids, that can feel ‘babyish,’ ” says Lisa Damour, author of “Untangled” and “Under Pressure.” “A child who retreats to their room more often should be seen as a sign of developmental progress and not be taken personally.”

Tweens have to manage intense highs and lows and are micromanaged all day, so be prepared to talk on their time. “A lot of kids need time to restore themselves after school,” Damour says. “It’s not that they’re shutting the parent out, it’s that they need to not talk to anyone.” She adds that a common dynamic is that parents will pepper their child with questions when they first see them and the child is too exhausted to talk. Then, when the kid does want to talk about something that happened in math class or at lunch, the parent has turned their attention elsewhere.

Take the small stuff seriously

For middle-schoolers, even minor incidents can be distressing. When Sofia Flynn, now 16, attended a seventh-grade dance with friends from her old school, a few of them spent the evening making mean comments about kids across the room, saying one girl’s dress was “so ugly, it looks like a carpet.”

“I felt guilty for not saying anything, and also vulnerable, because I’d been excluded on and off in the past,” Sofia says. “That could have been me.” Later that night, she crawled into her parents’ bed and started crying. “I told my mom I felt like I didn’t belong, that I had known these friends since I was 5 and it was like outgrowing a favorite pair of pajamas.”

She still remembers how well her mother handled her distress. “She hugged me and let me blabber, and never once lectured me or said, ‘This is silly.’ ” Her mother also shared her own memories of feeling excluded. Sofia remembers thinking, “If my smart, awesome mom could be a teen and handle friend drama, then I could handle it, too.”

[Teen suicides are on the rise. Here’s what parents can do to slow the trend.]

Recently, her mother told Sofia, “I felt like I was able to help you that night, and I wish I’d been able to do that for you more in middle school.” Sofia told her she did just fine, and the moment was meaningful precisely because it was small. “When you connect on the simple, relatable things,” she says, “you lay the groundwork for talking about the big stuff.”

Find a neutral zone

The prevailing myth is that middle-schoolers seek drama, but most hate it, and they definitely don’t want to deal with drama from parents. Before engaging in conversation, assess whether you’re able to approach your child from a stance of curiosity, not criticism.

Middle-schoolers tend to be exquisitely sensitive to any sign of disapproval, so adopt a neutral facial expression and tone, give them your full attention and don’t assume you know best. Don’t pry into their personal life or ask accusatory questions such as, “Why did you do that?” While you’re at it, eliminate the phrase “I told you so” from your language.

If you come across as judgmental, “your child will feel as if you’re diminishing him or her,” explains social psychologist Susan Newman, author of “Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.” The result, she adds, will be a defensive, uncommunicative child.

Know your triggers

The middle school transition can be tough for parents, especially if they’re used to being more involved in their child’s life. Parents also may bring their own painful memories to the table. Rachel Simmons, the author of “The Curse of the Good Girl” and “Enough as She Is,”cautions parents not to over-identify with their child’s struggles, whether they relate to appearance, friendship, academics or athletics.

“Ask yourself, ‘Am I revisiting my stuff or dealing with their stuff?’ ” she says. “What would you say if you knew everything would be fine? Say that.”

If you’re easily triggered, pay attention to the sensations in your body just before you lose your cool. Does your heart race? Are your shoulders tense? You may need to take a deep breath or process with a friend or partner before you talk to your child. If you do lose control, apologize.

Be clear your love is unconditional

Your middle-schooler is wrestling with identity issues and impossible cultural ideals at an age when they most want to belong and fit in. Make it clear your love is unwavering. Sofia recalls how good it felt when her parents sent her an article about LGBTQ+ issues right after she told them in seventh grade that she was questioning her sexuality.

“It was so validating,” she says, “especially in middle school, when it’s hard to know whether you’re experiencing romantic or physical attraction or a crush — or just want to be someone’s buddy.”

No matter what your child reveals, resist the temptation to say, ‘You’re too young to know.”

“If your kid is bold enough to talk to you, they just want to hear, ‘We support you no matter what, and it’s okay to try out different labels until you find the one that fits you best,’ ” Sofia adds.

Don’t put the burden on them to ask for help

Middle- schoolers often feel like an enigma to themselves, and they may not even recognize when they’re depressed, overwhelmed or need your help. That’s why 13-year-old Amelia Otte says parents should never ask a child, “Are you okay?”

“We’ll always say, ‘I’m fine,’ ” she says. “It’s the biggest lie we tell.” Once a child denies being upset, they may feel they’ve lost the chance to ask for support. Instead, Amelia advises saying, “Hey, I can tell you’re a little off. Let’s talk today.”

Experiment with different forms of communication

Talking isn’t the only way to connect. Identify interests you can explore together, whether it’s baseball, video games or dystopian novels. Sofia shares a love of music with her father and calls it “a neutral starting point for dialogue.”

“One sweet memory is the time we tried to introduce each other to the same indie rock band during a car ride,” she says, adding that her dad also once surprised her with tickets to see Taylor Swift. “He was obviously not interested in seeing Taylor Swift, but he went with me because he knew I wanted to go, and that meant a lot.”

Treat arguing and complaining as productive

“Middle-schoolers communicate by complaining, and that is them giving us a detailed account of their day,” Damour says. Rather than challenge or question their complaints, let them unload and then ask, “Do you want my advice or do you just need to vent?” One child told Damour, “When I tell my parents about my day, the only thing I want them to say back to me is, ‘That stinks.’ ”

“A complaining child is dumping the psychological trash of the day so they can go back in the next day unencumbered,” Damour adds.

Similarly, when your child argues with you, it’s because they respect you and want to know what you’re thinking.

Hoffman discovered a way to connect with her son by the time he finished seventh grade: “I told him we were curious about his day, period, and we weren’t looking for something to fix or to pry, because that’s what he believed.” She also stuck to impersonal questions, asking what his teachers had taught him rather than what he had learned. When that seemed to work, she said, “You’re talking to me again! Is it because I’m not asking anything too personal?”

“Well, yeah,” he responded.

Hoffman discovered it’s possible to connect with even the most uncommunicative middle-schooler — as long as it’s on their terms.

Phyllis L. Fagell is the school counselor at Sheridan School in the District, a therapist at Chrysalis Group in Bethesda and the author of “Middle School Matters.” She blogs at phyllisfagell.com and tweets @pfagell.

My friend Michelle Hoffman’s son Alex, 13, was an open book when he was in elementary school. “If something good happened, we heard about it; if something bad happened, we heard about it,” she says. But in seventh grade, he entered what Hoffman calls “his grunting phase.”

“I’d ask, ‘How was school?’ and he’d say, ‘Eh.’ ” His processing shifted from external to internal, she explains, adding that, “suddenly, we weren’t part of it, and that felt really bad.”

Understanding Teenage Friendships In Middle Schoolers

Your Teen Mag

The author of the new book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed offers her take on middle school friendships.

MIDDLE SCHOOL CHALLENGES: CHANGING FRIENDSHIPS

 By Jessica Lahey

Middle school is challenging for so many reasons. Academics become more difficult. Schedules fill up with activities. And, in what might be the most treacherous terrain for kids and parents alike, teenage friendships change.

The peers your tweens cling to as they enter the middle school may look a lot different from the ones they race out with on the other side. And that’s to be expected. Friendships change over time, not just because our children evolve, but because the very nature of friendship evolves with them.

Early in childhood, our children’s friendships arise out of proximity and habit. We toss our kids into the sandbox with our friends’ kids. And this arrangement works for everyone. As kids get older, however, they begin to build emotional connections with friends based on compatibility. Their shared interests, dreams, and goals begin to edge out mere convenience.

When they become tweens, middle school friendships become much more complex. And for good reason. Tweens use friendships as a way to try on an identity. Old friends offer sameness and comfort. But the pull of novel ideas of other kids begins to lure them in new directions. Tweens begin to build teenage friendships based on these new priorities. Some priorities, such as social status or fashion choices, may not make much sense to parents. But they are just as important to our children’s growth as shared history or values.

YOUR TWEEN’S FRIENDSHIPS INEVITABLY CHANGE.

All too often, the shifting sands of tween friendship result in broken hearts. Tweens feel dumped, shunned, abandoned, and betrayed. And friends move back and forth between comfortable old relationships and exciting new alliances. As any parent knows, our own personal heartache hurts. But the secondhand heartbreak we experience through our children is much more painful, mainly because it’s out of our control. The urge to intervene, to save and heal, is powerful, and while meddling around in tween social machinations may make us feel better, we must stay out of it.

Our children’s teenage friendships are not about us any more than their choice of what to wear to the middle school dance is about us. The tween years are for trying on fifteen different outfits—the blue shirt with the tan pants, the red skirt with the white top—to see what works best for a changing body, mind, and spirit on a given day.

Tweens move from relationship to relationship, adopting this detail of a friend’s personality, discarding that characteristic of another, until they have collected the essential elements of their identity. Some relationships will survive this process, and some will not, but every one is an important phase of the journey. We may not love every outfit our tweens try on, but it’s our job to be there when they emerge from the dressing room, when they do a little twirl and wait for us to tell them how grown up they have become.

Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Atlantic and author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Find out more at jessicalahey.com.

Eighth Grade Is a Movie About Middle School That Will Leave Adults in Tears

Slate

Bo Burnham’s funny, original debut feature is astonishingly mature.

A teenage girl in a swimming pool.
Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade.
A24

“The topic of today’s video is being yourself,” stammers 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) in one of the self-recorded advice videos she periodically posts to her YouTube channel. It’s hard to imagine any topic on which this insecure, awkward girl, with her apologetically slumped shoulders and digitally airbrushed-out acne, would make for a less convincing expert. As her generally unhappy middle school experience enters its final excruciating week, Kayla contends with some standardly bad teenage experiences: being awarded the superlative of “Most Quiet” at an end-of-year ceremony, being invisible to the “Best Eyes”–winning classmate she’s crushed out on (Luke Prael), and being pestered by her loving, hovering single dad (Josh Hamilton) to—get this—stop looking at Instagram over dinner and talk to him.

Kayla will later deal with scarier and dodgier situations than these run-of-the-mill indignities, even if Eighth Grade mercifully never goes as dark as first-time writer-director Bo Burnham sometimes seem to hint it will. The funny, heartfelt, and utterly original Eighth Grade is a movie about middle school starring real middle school–age kids, to which one might enjoyably take actual middle schoolers—so long as they and their parents are willing to tolerate a reasonably high degree of shared comic embarrassment. Whether or not you currently have a preteen child, every adult has been one, and it’s almost neurologically impossible not to avert your face in burning-cheeked sympathy when Kayla, face to face with the popular girls she both longs to impress and fears like the ego-destroying monsters they can be, can only summon the emptiest sycophantic banter. “By the way, I like your shirt a lot. It’s, like, so cool.” Long pause. “I have a … shirt … too.”

Eighth Grade alternates such moments of hyperreal cringe comedy with more stylized scenes filmed from Kayla’s point of view. A visit to her boorish beloved’s Instagram feed sends her down a social media spiral, captured in a montage of Snapchat selfies and BuzzFeed quizzes set to Enya’s hypnotic New Age classic “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away).” These dreamlike passages often end abruptly with the forced removal of headphones from Kayla’s ears, emphasizing the break between banal everyday reality and the curated fantasy space of social media. But Eighth Grade never strains for topicality or hand-wrings at the state of Today’s Youth: There’s a lightness and simplicity to this affectionate portrait of a girl dipping a first toe in the rushing waters of 21st-century teenagerdom.

Kayla’s omnipresent iPhone can be a vector of social anxiety and low self-esteem, but, like the YouTube videos she posts into the apparent void, it can also serve as a medium of connection. After she’s paired with a high school student (Emily Robinson) for a daylong tour of the school she’s about to move on to, the two become unexpectedly friendly, and a dazzled Kayla gets a glimpse of the only good thing about her current phase of life: Eventually, it ends. “Now I can’t wait to grow up,” she confides to her trusty webcam. But her newfound faith in the future is tested, heartstoppingly, by an encounter with an older boy (Daniel Zolghadri) who tries to pressure Kayla into a too-much-too-soon round of truth or dare.

The 27-year-old Burnham, making a graceful and assured debut as a writer-director, already has a devoted following as a stand-up comedian. In fact, his career began at age 16 in exactly the place we first see Kayla: YouTube. In his most recent Netflix special Make Happy, Burnham uses his considerable versatility—he can sing, dance, take to the keyboard to pound out his own satirical pop ballads, and generally shift genres and tones on a dime—to mount a protest against stand-up comedy as a form. By the end of the hour, he’s exposed both the raw desire for approval that drives him to perform in the first place and the need for mass catharsis via entertainment that fills seats at comedy shows. At first glance, this kind of confrontational virtuosity would seem at odds with the emotional directness of Eighth Grade, which, though it showcases many acts of intentional and unintentional cruelty, is a deeply kind movie, curious and nonjudgmental even about the characters who in most coming-of-age films would be hissable villains. But some of the same themes that animate Burnham’s stand-up—his willingness to look at aspects of the modern experience that tend to be omitted from the stories we tell, his glee at subverting audience expectations—are also at play in his first feature.

Impressive as Burnham’s achievement is, Eighth Grade could never hit the heights it does without the right actress in the demanding lead role. Elsie Fisher—who was only 14 when the movie premiered at Sundance, with experience as a child voice actor in the Despicable Me franchise—delivers her “like”-heavy dialogue with such naturalism you might think the lines are improvised. But Burnham has said in interviews that the film is more scripted than it appears, and the story beats that it hits in its brisk 90-minute runtime are too precisely timed to be the result of adolescent ad-libbing. Though they get less screen time than Fisher, the rest of the teen actors, especially Jake Ryan as an earnest, geeky boy who takes a shine to Kayla at a pool party, are uniformly wonderful. And as Kayla’s devoted but confounded father, who’s alternately commanded to talk more, smile less, “stop looking weird and sad,” and just shut up and drive her to the mall, Josh Hamilton gives an exemplary performance, funny and sensitive and quietly soul-baring. A late scene by a campfire, in which Kayla’s dad struggles to articulate what watching her grow from babyhood has meant to him, will do a thorough job of flushing out any eye irritants that might have been bothering you on the way into the theater.

Eighth Grade doesn’t overstay its welcome or beg for the viewer’s approval. As Kayla records her last advice video of the school year, mortifying catchphrase and all, you’re sad to see her go, glad for the gains in self-confidence she’s made, and curious to know what she’ll do next. The same is true of Bo Burnham, who, unlike his tentative protagonist, arrives on the big screen already fully grown.

What parents and teachers can do to not make the 7th grade the worst ever

ABC News

PHOTO: Middle-school aged boys stand in a hallway in an undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
Middle-school aged boys stand in a hallway in an undated stock photo.

In sixth grade, Carrie Rountrey’s son Owen couldn’t wait to get to school.

“He used to get up, make his lunch, do everything for school,” she said.

What a difference a year makes because now Owen is in seventh grade and his attitude towards school has changed, according to his mom.

“He doesn’t like school,” Rountrey said. “He loves his math and science classes, and he hates everything else. It’s been pretty frustrating.”

PHOTO: Carrie Rountrey, J.R. Gentle and their son Owen. Morefamousjack Photography
Carrie Rountrey, J.R. Gentle and their son Owen.

A professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rountrey also can’t understand how her only child can be so disorganized.

“He forgets his keys on a regular basis,” she said. “He turns a lot of things in late.”

Fortunately, schoolwork comes pretty easily for him. Other seventh grade students aren’t so lucky.

Few kids, no matter how smart, manage to get through seventh grade without some hiccups. And, for many, seventh grade turns out to be the worst of their school years.

“Seventh grade sucked for me,” said Annie Fox, an award-winning author and educator, who has traveled all over the globe talking to teens and tweens.

A trusted online adviser for parents and teens since 1997, Fox said the reason kids — their parents and teachers as well — struggle so much when they are ages 12 and 13 is because there’s a lot happening to them developmentally.

PHOTO: Annie Fox, an educator and author, is an expert on teens and tweens. courtesy Annie Fox
Annie Fox, an educator and author, is an expert on teens and tweens.

Not only are they dealing with the onset of puberty, with all of its raging hormones, but the pre-frontal lobe of their brain, which manages impulse control, predicting consequences and planning ahead, is not fully wired.

“They are not playing with a full deck,” Fox said.

“Put 500 kids with that kind of insecurity in a group that spends six hours a day together and they are not going to be kind to each other,” Fox said.

Yet, this is exactly the time that their parents and teachers expect more from them.

“In sixth grade, they coddle them. In eighth grade, they are getting ready to go to high school so they are really elevated,” said Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Pace University in New York. “In seventh grade, no one really cares. You’re thrown to the wolves. They really are in such an in-between age.”

PHOTO: Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist writes about teens and tweens. courtesy Jennifer Powell-Lunder
Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist writes about teens and tweens.

Parents of seventh-graders likely expect their kids to step up, too, and they are usually surprised when they don’t — or don’t even seem to care.

“It’s the age of snarky,” Powell-Lunder said. “They tend to be more irritable, kind of touchy. They don’t believe they are a reflection of their parents, but that their parents are a reflection of them.”

That means the potential for their parents to embarrass them in front of their almighty peers is at an all-time high. It’s because kids at this developmental stage put more weight into what their peers think and where they fit in.

“Their emotional real estate is so fixated on where do I fit into my peer group,” Fox said.

For boys, that can mean how they match up against their more physically developed peers. For girls, it’s negotiating often tricky relationships, aka “mean girls.”

One mom of three, who asked not to be identified, knows this all too well. She says both her girls began cutting themselves in the seventh grade.

The younger one used to complain that she felt sad and empty, she said.

“Nobody likes me. I don’t want to talk to anybody. They are looking at me weird,” she said of what her daughter would tell her.

It got to be so bad, her daughter had to be held overnight in a hospital.

Fox hears many stories such as that one. In a survey she gave to 1,200 tweens and teens, kids said the number one stressor in their lives was their peers, with school and parents following behind in second and third place.

“Every middle-schooler feels different than their peers, whether gay, straight or transgender,” Fox said. “As human beings what we are trying to do is fit in. On a species level this is the most awkward time.”

Given everything kids are experiencing at this age — socially, developmentally and academically — Fox encourages parents to exercise more compassion.

“I want parents to be a safe place to talk about anything,” she said. “They need to talk less and listen more.”

Keep reading for more helpful tips from Fox and Powell-Lunder on to how not make the seventh grade worst year for everyone.

PHOTO: Middle-school aged students sit on a school stairwell in an undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
Middle-school aged students sit on a school stairwell in an undated stock photo.

Control your own stress

Parents stress themselves out over what their kids are doing or not doing at this age.

However, parents need to let go of the idea that they have total control over their kids, Fox said.

“You have a remote control for your TV, but you don’t have one to control another person,” she said. “You can’t get them to do anything they do not choose to do. Most of the time, we parents are stressing because we are trying to point a non-functional remote control at our kids.”

Fox learned this when her own son entered the seventh grade, and it was like a bomb went off in his room, she said. After feeling like their relationship had been taken over by her nagging, she said she stopped trying to get him to clean up his room and their relationship improved.

“You cannot control someone else’s choices,” she said. “You can only modify your own behavior.”

Give them autonomy, not independence

At the same time, teens and tweens still crave structure and boundaries, Powell-Lunder said.

They may be looking for more autonomy from their parents, but they are not yet ready to be fully independent. Setting limits, especially when it comes to technology, is important, she said.

“A lot of time parents want to be the ‘nice’ parent, but kids need rules,” Powell-Lunder said.

Boundary-setting starts with knowing your child and what their individual needs are, as well as acknowledging that those needs change as they get older, Fox said.

“Mom and dad have to take a closer look at the children sitting in front of them,” she said. “They are changing so rapidly. If you don’t keep up, you won’t know how to communicate or listen to them.”

Don’t try to fix everything

With rules, come consequences. Both Fox and Powell-Lunder said parents have to let their middle-schoolers fail sometimes.

“Let them take responsibility for being a full-time student,” Fox said. “That’s a contract between student and teacher — unless you’re planning to go to college with them.”

“Be supportive but don’t try to fix everything,” Powell-Lunder said.

“Over-functioning parents will raise under-functioning kids,” Fox added.

Practice what you preach

Kids at this age are also learning a lot by observing the adults around them.

Be careful what you’re modeling to your kids, whether it’s screaming and yelling or being tethered to your smartphone.

“Show you have more self-control than your son or daughter,” Fox said.

Powell-Lunder tells teachers: “Teach by example.”

Organization helps

At a time when kids seem the most disorganized, being organized seems to count the most.

Powell-Lunder, who is a big believer in the “K-8” model because it “smooths out the rough edges,” said educators in middle schools need to be more understanding of seventh-graders and teach them the organizational skills they lack. Posting homework in one place certainly helps, she said.

Fox frowns on too much homework because she said it turns some middle school students off from education. This age group still needs time to pursue passions, she said, be with family and just daydream.

Talk less, listen more

Both Powell-Lunder and Fox encourage parents to show more empathy for what their children are going through.

“Ultimately, you want less stress and tension between parent and child, and more compassion and conversation and understanding,” Fox said. “They are not getting it from their peers or their own internal monologues where they are putting themselves down. We are just adding to the chorus if all we’re doing is finding fault.”

Middle School Parenting Mistakes I Made—That You Don’t Have To

middle school parenting mistakes

by Jane Parent

My kids have long since emerged from the dark tunnel of middle school. But I remember those wondrous, bewildering, exasperating years all too well. We made so many middle school parenting mistakes. However, I can only see the answers of parenting middle schoolers with the benefit of hindsight. If I could do it all over again, there are five things I wish we had done differently. It’s too late for my kids, but there’s no reason you can’t profit from my middle school parenting fails.

Parenting Middle Schoolers: Parenting Fails I Made

1

Bringing Forgotten Stuff to School.

You see the forgotten lunch bag as soon as you get back from dropping them off. Honestly, your intentions are so pure. Your son shouldn’t go hungry. (Or have to sit out gym class, get a detention, or get a zero in English for forgetting items.) Secretly, you kind of like being the hero, too, swinging into action to save the day for little Jack or Mackenzie. And the teacher will be impressed by what a dedicated parent you are! Plus, you can’t have a blemish on their sixth grade report card. They might not get into Dartmouth, right?

Don’t do it. You aren’t helping your kid to become a responsible, conscientious young adult. Guess what? He’ll forget his lunch again next week. Some kids only learn the hard way. By cushioning the blunt impact of the lesson, you are most assuredly guaranteeing it will happen again. The stakes for failure are the lowest they are ever going to be when they are in middle school.

From this point on, the consequences just get bigger and more painful. Let them fail now. If you bring the forgotten school report today, you are merely increasing the odds that junior year in high school he will “forget” his printed admission ticket for the SAT. And he will expect you to run it to him at 7:30 a.m. on some snowy February morning. Instead, help your son or daughter learn to plan ahead. Do not permit theirpoor planning to become your emergency.

2

Video Games After School

When my sons got home from school, they would grab a bowl of cheddar Goldfish and retire to the basement for Playstation. And I let them, because everyone needs a little break to clear their minds, right? For some foolish reason, I trusted them to be able to manage their own time. I assumed they would turn off the game and get on with homework. A classic middle school parenting mistake. Video games were like heroin to my older son. A half hour always turned into an hour or two.

My son usually ended up squandering the most productive portion of the afternoon. He left his homework for after sports practice—when he was physically and mentally exhausted. No surprise that his work product frequently suffered as a result, or was altogether skipped.

By the time our youngest son was in sixth grade, we instituted a blanket rule: no video or computer games on school nights. Period. I wish we had done it earlier.

3

Letting Them Quit Piano Lessons

We had a wonderful Russian piano teacher named Elena who came to our house for lessons. Every week, she implored my children to practice. My daughter was fairly diligent, but the boys hated the forced inactivity of piano lessons. They did the bare minimum and sighed and squirmed through their lessons. It felt like a waste of time and money, and just one more thing about which I had to nag them. We had homework, sports, after school clubs, chores, time with friends, and about a million other things they’d rather be doing—so I let them quit.

At some point in high school, after seeing an accomplished classmate perform at a school concert or assembly, each of my kids has turned to me and said wistfully, “I wish I could still play the piano.” Me too.

4

“You’re So Smart—If You Just Tried A Little Harder …”

For years, I thought that my oldest son just wasn’t motivated by grades. He was so smart, after all. Whenever he came home with a disappointing grade, we would say something like, “You’re so smart. If you just tried a little harder, you could be getting an A.” We didn’t want to crush his little spirit.

So he did try—but only just a little bit. We had, in effect, given him permission to do the bare minimum in his schoolwork. Inadvertently, we had encouraged him to believe that being smart was enough to get good grades. If I could do it again, I would give him a big serving of “Toughen up, buttercup.” Instead of telling my precious snowflake how smart he was, I should have told him that success comes from effort, self-discipline, and preparation. No one succeeds simply because his mother has told him he is “so smart.”

5

Studying In Bed

Our daughter’s bed became a cozy nest of textbooks, fleece blankets, wrappers, tissues, dirty dishes, and nail polish bottles. Occasionally, it was so messy she had to sleep in the guest room.

For years, she had trouble falling asleep, struggling with racing thoughts, and insomnia. Sometimes she fell asleep when she should’ve been studying.

I know now that she should not have made her bed a “home office.” In order to ensure a restful night’s sleep, our beds must be reserved for sleep. We should have insisted that she use her desk for studying, and her bed for sleeping. I could have saved her from those dark circles under her eyes and a few years of chronic exhaustion in high school.


Jane Parent is senior editor of Your Teen.

These 6 Kids Are Doing Amazing Things For Their Communities

The Huffington Post

These stories remind me of the work Sacred Heart 8th graders complete each year through the Middle School capston “Making History” project.  We look forward to having the girls share their work with the Middle School community in the Spring.

Prepare to be inspired.

Anyone can make a positive difference in the world, no matter their age. And sometimes, it’s the youngest members of society who are making the biggest impact. For these extraordinary kids, age is no barrier to having a positive effect on their communities. That’s why we’ve partnered with Brawny to bring you the stories of incredible kids who, having been inspired by circumstances in their own lives, have taken-on impactful issues close to their hearts. Their actions continue to help so many others, offering further proof that making a real difference in the community is for all ages.

  • 1. Coloring For A Cause
    The simple act of coloring greatly comforted the then six-year-old Ella Tryon at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where she was hooked up to IVs and a feeding tube during her hospitalization in Cleveland, Ohio. Ella was being treated for a severe allergic reaction to gluten, diagnosed as Celiac disease, when she wanted more crayons to color. But the hospital didn’t have enough due to cross-contamination risks.

    So Ella and her parents, Jackie and Chris Tryon, decided to do something about it by creating her campaign, “Help Me Color A Rainbow,” which collects crayon donations from across the United States to benefit other young patients. The first crayon drive aimed to collect 10,000 boxes by Christmas—and last October, Tryon delivered 13,132 boxes of crayons and 254 coloring books.

    “Not only did she surpass her goal, she did it two months early,” Jackie said. “After, we asked her what she wanted to do now, and she said she wants every kid in the United States to have their own box of crayons if they’re in the hospital.”

    Ella is well on her way to meeting her goal of sending 1,000 boxes of crayons to every children’s hospital in the nation and 5,000 boxes specifically to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. And it seems Ella’s compassion is contagious: a donor gave thousands of boxes in her name to Primary Children’s Hospital in Utah and a Miami donor has already contributed enough money to meet Ella’s goal for St. Jude’s.

    “And she’s still going,” Jackie said. “She wants to deliver them in person as much as she can.”

  • 2. A Campaign For Tolerance
    Jaylen Arnold’s motor and vocal tics, associated with Tourette’s Syndrome, made school life difficult for the elementary school student. But the resilient 8-year-old decided to confront his challenges with educational awareness instead—he created “Jaylen’s Challenge” to put an end to school bullying. Through donations, his campaign produces anti-bully wristbands, posters, books and other materials to help teachers spread the message of tolerance to their students. Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Degeneres have supported his cause, and Arnold recently received the Princess Diana Legacy Award for his humanitarian efforts.
  • 3. Getting On A Better Footing
    When Shanneil Turner and her family moved from San Francisco to Vacaville, California, they joined the local Boys and Girls Club. The support of the club helped Turner’s family, who was struggling and couldn’t afford to buy her the athletic shoes that the then 15 year old needed to try out for her high school basketball team.

    “I remember when she walked into my office with duct-tape holding together both shoes,” said Anna Eaton, director of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club.

    The Boys and Girls Club stepped in and provided her with a scholarship to purchase shoes—and Turner decided to give back to show her appreciation.

    “I thought, ‘Wow, there’s people out there who want to help me accomplish my dreams,’” Turner said.

    Wanting to pay it forward, Turner raised $11,000 to provide footwear vouchers for student athletes who apply to her program, which she dubbed “Shanneil’s Locker.” Nike and Kaiser Permanente have donated scholarships and shoes to Turner’s mission to provide other kids with the opportunity to run after their dreams.

  • 4. Knitting Compassion For Others
    Photo provided by Sheryl Lowry
    After Garrett Lowry lost his grandfather and his beloved cat to cancer, he knew that he needed to show other cancer patients just how much he cared. Thanks to his grandmother’s knitting lessons, the then 11-year-old Garrett turned a class philanthropic project into an ultimate act of compassion.

    He has knitted more than 150 caps for kids suffering from cancer, donating the caps to hospitals in California and Colorado so the young patients can feel better. Chemotherapy causes the kids to lose their hair, and Garrett’s generosity provides them with head coverings. Now his parents, Sheryl and Don Lowry, are are helping him develop a foundation to continue his efforts.

    “This past year his uncle also died of pancreatic cancer, so he really wants to continue doing something for kids who are going through what he sees as a horrible time,” Sheryl said. “And he’s continuing to buy the yarn, make the hats and donate them.”

    Garrett showed an empathetic streak early on, Sheryl said. For his seventh birthday he donated all of his birthday gifts to the Ronald McDonald House, and he recently delivered 50 hats to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, California, where his five-year-old friend with neuroblastoma is being treated. His big heart is truly comforting the kids who need it most.

  • 5. Caring For The Homeless
    When Addisyn Goss met her grandfather for the first time two years ago, she learned that he had been homeless for many years. His stories of struggle inspired the now 10 year old to take action, and she created the “Snuggle Sacks” campaign in areas around Flint, Michigan.

    “She immediately wanted to do something to help,” said Addisyn’s mom, Stacy Daul. “Homelessness is unfortunately something we see on the way to the grocery store, so it really hit home for the kids.”

    Addisyn’s sister and brother, Sheridan and Jaxson, also help run the operation. Together they’ve delivered about 1,700 survival kits to people in need. The Snuggle Sacks include toiletries, snacks and warm coverings for men, women and children in need.

    Their social media efforts have gained momentum and as Stacy said, “The donations have only kept coming … we are so very proud of her!” Two years later, Addisyn makes about 100 sacks per month and delivers them personally to individuals living on the streets or to local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and YMCAs.

    “When people come up to me and are so excited to get a Snuggle Sack, it makes me happy,” Addisyn said. “They love putting the socks on right away, and I can see they are smiling even though they live a hard life. It gives me hope that I am helping.”

  • 6. Warming Up The Community
    A few years ago, Emma Burkhart received two of the same blankets as gifts and it sparked an idea: Give blankets to children who may need a blanket more than she did. So nine-year-old Emma started the “Keep Kids Warm Blanket Drive“ and set a goal to collect 200 blankets for local children in need within her community in Durant, Oklahoma.

    Success encouraged her to make it an annual effort and last year she collected more than triple the first year’s number: almost 900 new blankets! The blankets went to 11 different organizations, according to Emma’s mom, Melisa Burkhart.

    “She has also been able to help children that have lost everything in house fires by giving them a new blanket or comforter,” Melisa said. “Blankets were also given to the homeless community, nursing homes, police stations and fire stations in her hometown.”

    Emma feels the biggest impact it has made on the community is showing kids that no matter how old you are you can help others, her mom explains.

    “She also loves seeing how happy it makes children when they receive their new blanket,” Melisa said. “We have a wonderful community that has really helped to make Emma’s dream come true and she cannot wait to start the blanket drive again for this year.”

    Emma intends to turn “Keep Kids Warm Blanket Drive” into a non-profit organization to continuing sending warm wishes throughout her community.

Social media — helping or harming your mental health?

In May 2017, a survey by the Royal Society for Public Health in England revealed that 3 of the 4 most popular social media platforms/apps had a net negative effect on the mental well-being of young people. Surveying nearly 1,500 teenagers and young adults aged 14 to 24 from February through May of 2017, the survey asked about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Some questions were on negative experiences and feelings, such as anxiety and depression when using the apps. Other questions were about positive experiences—such as getting emotional support on these sites and the ability for self-expression. Nearly 7 in 10 teens reported receiving support on social media during challenging times. ** See the end for all of the things asked in the survey.

For all of the sites, other than Facebook, the platforms were found to have more of a negative effect on mental well-being than a positive effect. Instagram was the worst—showing that it brings up a lot of feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, as well as problems with body image and sleep.

The survey’s authors have called on the social media companies to make changes to help curb these feelings of envy and inadequacy that result in anxiety and depression. Here are a few of those suggestions and how people in the survey thought about these ideas.

  1. In-app features that indicate when a picture has been digitally manipulated or edited (68% surveyed agreed with this recommendation—remember these are 14- to 24- year- olds agreeing)
  2. The inclusion of pop-up messages that tell a person when they are on an app excessively long (71% agreed with this)
  3. Social media apps should use algorithms to identify people that may be suffering from mental health problems and then discreetly send them info about getting help (80% agreed with this)

For this TTT, check in with your kids about how often they use these social media apps and what feelings come up for them when they do. If your kids are younger, then it can still be a great conversation about what responsibility companies have to their users.

Some talking points to get the conversation going:

  • What are some of the positives of being on social media for you personally? Can you give an example of getting social support during a challenging time?
  • Which platform makes you feel anxious or sad at times and why?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the suggestions that the authors are asking social media companies to do? And why?

** The 14 health and well-being-related issues were:

  1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
  2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
  3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
  4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease)
  5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
  6. Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own)
  7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
  8. Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
  9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
  10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
  11. Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
  12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
  13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behavior towards you)
  14. FoMO (Fear of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)

For more discussion ideas, you can peruse past Tech Talk Tuesdays. If you are interested in seeing Screenagers, you can find event listings on our site and find out how to host a screening.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on FacebookTwitter and at
www.screenagersmovie.com.

Warmly,

Delaney Ruston, MD
Screenagers’ Filmmaker
www.screenagersmovie.com

BFFs Forever? Understanding Middle School Friendships

two girl friends fighting

The author of the new book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed offers her take on tween friendships.

 By Jessica Lahey

Middle school is challenging for so many reasons—academics become more difficult, schedules fill up with activities, and, in what might be the most treacherous terrain for kids and parents alike, friendships change.

The peers your tween son or daughter cling to as they enter the middle school building for the first time may look a lot different from the ones they race out with on the other side, and that’s to be expected. Friendships change over time, not just because our children evolve, but because the very nature of friendship evolves with them.

All too often, the shifting sands of tween friendship result in broken hearts.

Early in childhood, our children’s friendships arise out of proximity and habit. We toss our kids into the sandbox with our friends’ kids, and this arrangement works for everyone. As kids get older, however, they begin to build emotional connections with friends based on compatibility. Their shared interests, dreams, and goals begin to edge out mere convenience. When they become tweens, friendships become much more complex, and for good reason. Tweens use friendships as a way to try on an identity. Old friends offer sameness and comfort, but the pull of novel ideas of other kids begins to lure them in new directions. Tweens begin to build friendships based on these new priorities. While some priorities, such as social status or fashion choices, may not make much sense to parents, they are just as important to our children’s growth as shared history or values.

All too often, the shifting sands of tween friendship result in broken hearts. Tweens feel dumped, shunned, abandoned, and betrayed as friends move back and forth between comfortable old relationships and exciting new alliances. As any parent knows, our own personal heartache hurts, but the secondhand heartbreak we experience through our children is much more painful, mainly because it’s out of our control. The urge to intervene, to save and heal, is powerful, and while meddling around in tween social machinations may make us feel better, we must stay out of it.

“The urge to intervene, to save and heal, is powerful, and while meddling around in tween social machinations may make us feel better, we must stay out of it.”

Our children’s middle school friendships are not about us any more than their choice of what to wear to the middle school dance is about us. The tween years are for trying on fifteen different outfits—the blue shirt with the tan pants, the red skirt with the white top—to see what works best for a changing body, mind, and spirit on a given day.

Tweens move from relationship to relationship, adopting this detail of a friend’s personality, discarding that characteristic of another, until they have collected the essential elements of their identity. Some relationships will survive this process, and some will not, but every one is an important phase of the journey. We may not love every outfit our tweens try on, but it’s our job to be there when they emerge from the dressing room, when they do a little twirl and wait for us to tell them how grown up they have become.


jess_laheyJessica Lahey is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Atlantic and author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. Find out more at jessicalahey.com.

Advice on Helping Teen Girls Thrive

The Wall Street Journal

Stumped by a teenager’s mood swings? Read the latest research on helping girls between 10 and 15 years old flourish

New research offers insight into helping teenage girls thrive. 

Screaming, slamming doors and careening from one emotional outburst to the next—all can be part of life with a teenage girl.

Although girls approaching their teens are often years ahead of boys in gaining height, language and social skills, those strengths mask some important vulnerabilities.

Questions about helping teen girls thrive are a source of interest for psychologists and neuroscientists, sparking more than three dozen studies in the past year. Here’s a guide to the findings:

Ages 10 to 11: Early signs of puberty set in sooner than many parents expect. Girls begin staying up later and having their first crushes. Many are beset by strong, volatile emotions, ending a period of relative calm from ages 6 to 11, says Lisa Damour, a psychologist and director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

ILLUSTRATION: ROBERT NEUBECKER

Some girls mature faster and begin menstruating at age 10 or 11, compared with an average of 12 to 13. Early-maturing girls are at higher risk of behavior problems and depression. Girls who look older than their years often attract older peers who may lead them into risky behaviors.

Early-maturing girls who hang out with school friends the same age, rather than older friends from outside school, fare better. Also, those who say they’re close to parents and can talk with them about many things have a better chance of thriving, research shows.

Ages 12 to 13: Girls typically are more skilled than boys at expressing their emotions and interpreting others’ moods at this stage. They’re quicker to grasp nuances of humor.

Girls are also more vulnerable to stress than boys.

ILLUSTRATION: ROBERT NEUBECKER

A stress hormone that has a calming effect on teen males and adults may make teen girls more anxious, based on research on female rats. And teen girls are more sensitive to rejection, showing a sharper rise in stress hormones when trained peers in laboratory simulations exclude them from conversations, according to a 2017 study of 59 children and teens led by Laura R. Stroud, a senior research scientist at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

Girls whose parents give them strategies for solving social problems—by suggesting they join a school club to meet peers with similar interests, for example—have stronger friendships, according to a 2017 study which surveyed 123 middle-schoolers and their parents and teachers twice over 10 months.

Girls also need help managing strong emotions, Dr. Damour says. One eighth-grade girl screamed in distress after finding out about a bad grade online, as if “she walked into a mass-murder scene,” the girl’s father told researchers in a 2016 study.

Teenage girls are hardwired for drama, according to Family therapist Colleen O’Grady, author of “Dial Down the Drama.” But there are key ways daughters and mothers can find common ground. She offers tips for keeping the peace on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: iStock

Parents should avoid overreacting. “The No. 1 mistake parents make when their kid is in distress is to jump in to solve the problem,” says Michael Y. Simon, an author and school counselor in New Orleans.

Simply helping a girl name what she’s feeling and talk about it can have an almost magical calming effect, Dr. Damour says. Teens who are able to ask for and receive support and problem-solving help from their mothers at age 13 tend to be more independent and better educated at 25, according to a 12-year study of 184 subjects.

Some girls try to cope by sharing too much or attacking others on social media, which tends to amplify bad feelings. Dr. Damour advises curbing social-media use and guiding girls toward face-to-face activities instead.

Ages 14 to 15: Girls’ interactions with parents can take a negative turn, and some become pessimistic in the face of challenges. Boys offered a chance to win rewards in a Wheel of Fortune-like game became excited and motivated, while girls said the challenge made them anxious, says a 2017 study of 167 teens with an average age of 14.

ILLUSTRATION: ROBERT NEUBECKER

Girls tend to have more negative conflicts with parents than boys. A certain amount of arguing helps teens learn to control themselves and negotiate differences, Mr. Simon says. Parents who can listen with respect and disagree calmly make teens feel as if their opinions matter, helping build a sense of identity.

Some teens, however, unconsciously dump negative feelings on a parent so Mom or Dad will feel bad in their stead, says Dr. Damour, author of “Untangled,” a best-selling book on raising adolescent girls. They also tend to make bad feelings worse by ruminating or brooding over them. Rumination is linked to depression in teen girls, who suffer the malady at nearly twice the rate of boys.

If a girl is ruminating on a problem she can do something about, help her get started on working toward a solution, Dr. Damour says. If it’s something she can’t change, help her find a happy distraction. Preteen and teenage girls posted lasting improvements in feelings of mastery and closeness with others after taking part in a one-week mountain-biking program where they were also coached on goal-setting, self-expression and team-building, according to a 2016 study of 87 girls.

Teen girls who embrace goals that involve helping others also have a higher likelihood of thriving. Such teens tend to have parents who trust them and listen when they talk about problems, says a coming study of 207 girls led by Belle Liang, a professor of counseling and psychology at Boston College.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

Appeared in the Apr. 12, 2017, print edition as ‘Teenage Girls: An Expert Guide.’

Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids

Psychology Today

Tween’ brains are simply too immature to use social media wisely.

This guest post is by Melanie Hempe, RN, founder of Families Managing Media

interstid/Shutterstock
Source: interstid/Shutterstock

I really love middle school kids. I have two of them! If you have been through middle-school parenting, you may have noticed what I see: Strange things seem to happen to a tween’s brain the first day they walk into middle school.

One might sum up their main goals in life this way:

  • To be funny at all costs. (Hence, the silly bathroom jokes, talking at inappropriate times in class, and the “anything it takes to be popular” attitude.)
  • To focus on SELF — their clothes, their nose, their body, and their hair.
  • To try new things. They are playing “dress up” with their identity, trying on things to see what fits. They are impulsive and scattered, they are up and they are down, and it even seems that they have regressed in their development on their quest for independence.

As the parent, you are changing, too, as you enter the stage of parenting when you quickly depart from the naïve platform of “My child would never…” to the realization that, “I’m sure my child did that. I’m sorry, and please excuse his behavior, he is going through a phase.”

Your list of daily parenting instruction may include statements like:

  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”
  • “How many times do I have to tell you not the use that word?”
  • “Stop flipping that bottle!”
  • “Stop burping the ABC’s!”
  • “You’re acting like a two-year-old.”
  • “What were you thinking?”

Then it happens: Maybe because we are exhausted from their constant begging for a phone, or because we think that all their friends have one, or because we want to upgrade ours to the latest model…we cave. We act on impulse. Our brain seems to regress like theirs, and we give them our old smartphone.

And with that one little decision comes the world of social media access—something we haven’t thought about and something none of us is prepared for. Because the midbrain is reorganizing itself and risk-taking is high and impulse control is low, I can’t imagine a worse time in a child’s life to have access to social media than middle school. Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Social media was not designed for them. A tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use. While you start teaching responsible use of tech now, know that you will not be able to teach the maturity that social media requires. Like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, they will use social media inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better.
  2. Social media is an entertainment technology. It does not make your child smarter or more prepared for real life or a future job; nor is it necessary for healthy social development. It is pure entertainment attached to a marketing platform extracting bits and pieces of personal information and preferences from your child every time they use it, not to mention hours of their time and attention.
  3. A tween’s “more is better” mentality is a dangerous match for social media. Do they really have 1,456 friends? Do they really need to be on it nine hours a day? Social media allows (and encourages) them to overdo their friend connections like they tend to overdo other things in their lives.
  4. Social media is an addictive form of screen entertainment. And, like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits.
  5. Social media replaces learning the hard social “work” of dealing face-to-face with peers, a skill that they will need to practice to be successful in real life.
  6. Social media can cause teens to lose connection with family and instead view “friends” as their foundation. Since the cognitive brain is still being formed, the need for your teen to be attached to your family is just as important now as when they were younger. Make sure that attachment is strong. While they need attachments to their friends, they need healthy family attachment more.
  7. Social media use represents lost potential for teens. While one can argue that there are certain benefits of social media for teens, the costs are very high during the teen years when their brain development is operating at peak performance for learning new things. It is easy for teens to waste too much of their time and too much of their brain in a digital world. We know from many studies that it is nearly impossible for them to balance it all.

How Can Kids Slow Down?

First, we need to slow down and rethink what we are allowing our kids to do. We need to understand the world of social media and how teens use it differently from adults. Here are a few tips that work well for many parents.

  1. Delay access. The longer parents delay access, the more time a child will have to mature so that he or she can use technology more wisely as a young adult. Delaying access also places a greater importance on developing personal authentic relationships first.
  2. Follow their accounts. Social media privacy is a lie: Nothing is private in the digital world, and so it should not be private to parents. Make sure privacy settings are in place but know that those settings can give you a false sense of security. Encourage your teen to have private conversations in person or via a verbal phone call instead if they don’t want you to read it on social media.
  3. Create family accounts. Create family accounts instead of individual teen accounts. This allows kids to keep up with friends in a safer social media environment.
  4. Allow social media only on large screens. Allow your teens to only use their social media accounts on home computers or laptops in plain view, this way they will use it less. When it is used on a small private phone screen they can put in their pocket there are more potential problems with reckless use.  The more secret the access, the more potential for bad choices.
  5. Keep a sharp eye on the clock; they will not. Do you know how much time your child spends on social media a day? Be aware of this, and reduce the amount of time your child is on social media across all platforms. The average teen spends nine hours a day connected to social media. Instead, set one time each day for three days a week for your child to check their social media. Do they benefit from more time than that?
  6. Plan face-to-face time with their friends. Remember that they don’t need 842 friends; four-to-six close friends are enough for healthy social development. Help them learn how to plan real, in-person, social get-togethers such as a leave-phones-at-the-door party, a home movie night, bowling, board games, cooking pizza, or hosting a bonfire. They crave these social gatherings so encourage them to invite friends over and help them (as needed) to organize the event.
  7. Spend more real non-tech time together. Teens who are strongly attached to their parents and family show more overall happiness and success in life. They still need us now more than ever. It is easy to detach from them: Teens can be annoying! But attaching to family allows them to detach from the social media drama. Your child needs to feel like they can come home and leave the drama of their social world behind for a few hours. They want you to help them say no to social media and yes to more time with the family. They are craving those moments to disconnect, so make plans and encourage this at home.

Don’t give that smartphone all the power in your home; help tweens choose healthier forms of entertainment. They have the rest of their life to be entertained by social media, but only a limited time with you.

For more tools to help balance social media use from Families Managing Media, click here

To learn how to reverse the dysregulating effects of screen-time on your child’s mood, focus, and behavior, see Reset Your Child’s Brain.