Developing emotional maturity in a middle schooler may seem like an oxymoron. To say the middle school years are challenging for parents and children alike is an understatement. But despite how they might act, your child needs you more than ever before at this stage. Middle schoolers need careful nurturing and guidance to thrive during these difficult years. Believe it or not, you can have an emotionally mature middle schooler! Here’s how to get started:
Help them identify their feelings and their sources
Middle school is a time of big feelings and a lot of them. But it can be difficult for preteens to actually identify what they are feeling, and what caused them to feel that way. Parents can guide their children through these storms by talking through big feelings as they’re happening or even after the fact.
Ensure your child that feelings, even overwhelming ones, are never wrong. It’s what we do with those feelings that count.
So next time your 12-year-old is grumpy and furious for what seems like no reason to you, talk her through it. You might learn that her feelings were hurt by a friend at school that morning and she doesn’t know how to process it. Help your child identify anger, sadness, and frustration, and then dig deeper to find out where each feeling came from.
Teach them healthy coping mechanisms
Not unlike toddlers, middle schoolers can lack impulse-control. It’s not their fault; developmentally, their brains are still working on it. Big feelings can lead to big, and perhaps even destructive, reactions. Middle schoolers need guidance to channel their feelings into healthy coping mechanisms. Help your middle schooler talk about their feelings. Encourage exercise to help process big emotions. Teach them how engaging in creative activities like drawing, dance, or music can get feelings out in a productive way.
Developing emotional maturity requires an outward focus
Most middle schoolers are naturally self-centered. Though aren’t we all, without some solid home training? Focus on helping your child develop empathy and concern for others. Get them engaged in community service. Keep them connected to both local and world news so that they may develop a global perspective. Help them turn their focus outward. This will give them both perspective and empathy.