School is well underway and the holidays are approaching fast. It just doesn't seem possible both my children are now in middle school. It appears to be a conspiracy against us all that puberty takes place along with sixth grade!
My son is in eighth grade now and taller than me. When he approached sixth grade and transitioned to middle school, I heard many warnings about the difficulties headed my way. My son was looking forward to it and ready to be out of elementary. You see, elementary school was not easy for him. School days from the start have been a mixture of difficulties and emotional barriers for him. Although the work was still a challenge, middle school meant maturity and independence for my son. And if I'm completely candid, when there were teacher phone calls and principal meetings, it wasn't too different than elementary school.
My daughter is a different situation altogether. As a straight-A, outgoing, ambitious student, she rarely needed my help through elementary school. Sure, there were days she had difficulties; however, consequence usually worked well with her. She consistently corrected her behavior.
Then she entered sixth grade.
Responsibilities, homework, and independence, laced with the ebb and flow of puberty, are all using her as an emotional punching bag!
She despises school and communicates this just about every evening. The second or third week of school brought on an onslaught of meltdowns. After hugging and wiping tears explaining that I will help and it will get easier; the breakdown would continue. She convinces herself that she will fail in life. She will be held back, and a “successful” life is over. My attempts at explaining how truly irrelevant the sixth grade will be in terms of her entire life is useless. From her perspective, I haven't got a clue about her world. If I want to be truly helpful, I have to see things from her perspective. I have to set my experiences aside until she is ready to listen.
Finally, I resort to techniques used during the terrible 2’s and 3’s! I made her take breaks; take a shower, take a walk, something! "Please get out of your head for a few minutes!"
It does work. Well….it helps.
My own emotions continue to rock the balanced boat as well. I work on accepting they are older; they don't need me as much, and "tough love" is on the daily agenda. After the clock keeps ticketing, I can only allow tears for so long. Then I have to move into the "acceptance" speech that the work is not going away. I'm here to help (not get yelled at!)
I also have to accept that sassy comments and mood swings are part of becoming a teenager. I look up, ask for strength, and bite my tongue. We will all get through this. I remind myself I am the adult and understand the science behind the roller coaster puberty forces a family to ride. It's my job to keep the family boat balanced as best as possible, or at least verify everyone is strapped in and the buckles aren't coming undone.
As with all phases of childhood, it will pass. New fun is around the corner with all new challenges: high school, driving, graduation, life choices. I know I will be needed, but I also know they may not realize it. Then just when you think your emotional family roller coaster is slowing to the end of the ride, puberty's big sister starts lurking around: menopause.