My Son Is Miserable in Middle School
Is it him, or is this normal?
ADVICE BY KATIE HOLBROOK, CASSY SARNELL, AND AMY SCOTT
Is middle school just miserable? My 12-year-old hates school (and he enjoyed a fair amount of elementary school, pre-pandemic). His school has legitimate challenges, and he has ADHD and anxiety (addressed somewhat via meds and a 504). But I wonder if middle school just sucks for everyone, or if him coming home angry, frustrated, and anxious every day is just the norm for middle school in the time of COVID?
—Is This Normal?
It sucks for everyone.
I worked in the top school district in my state for nine years. Teachers and parents loved the elementary and high schools, but the middle schools… Everyone would just shrug in a “we’re all doing the best we can” way.
I also taught in middle school classrooms in two different districts over a decade. I would’ve told you it was a very difficult but good job. Now that I teach high school, you’d have to double my salary to make me go back.
Middle school is tough on all parties. Parents find themselves titrating academic support—do I keep fighting with my kid about homework, or do I let them learn a hard lesson? Teachers are asked to do way too much. (I taught 4½ classes with a “planning period” eclipsed by meetings nearly every day.) And students—they’re changing schools and changing classes, and wanting to be grown up while and wanting to be kids, and getting crushes and getting their periods.
And those are the kids without special needs. Pile on top your son’s ADHD and anxiety, and I’m not at all surprised he’s struggling.
So what do you do?
If you Google “how to help my middle school student,” you’re going to find sunny articles that tell you to “teach your child good organizational skills” and “talk about feelings.” But if you’re the parent of a middle schooler, you’ll say, “Sure, let me just whip out my magic wand.”
Here are my two bullets:
- Empathize. Remember that it sucks… really bad.
- Ride it out. Know that this too shall pass.
In the meantime, take care of your own well-being. At worst, you’ll feel better. At best, you’ll model for your kid good coping skills, which every middle schooler needs.