Resources for Families, Individuals and Professionals

Middle Years 6-12

Ask the Experts Articles that pertain to the middle years of childhood, including subjects like making the transition to high school, coping with behavior problems and more.

Articles are organized by age in the categories below.
Early Years 0-6
Middle Years 6-12
Teen Years 13-19
All Ages

Reflective Listening Helps Parents Communicate with Children

Ask the Experts by Teresa Sandner

Q: Why do I have to tell my children something ten times and then threaten them with punishment before they actually do what I say?”

A: Most children tune out because they don’t feel listened to or we say way too much.

Reflective listening is a way to let children know their feelings are being heard and understood. I-Messages are a way to let children know how their behavior affects us without shaming or blaming which helps to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation where listening is a valuable outcome.

Read more: Reflective Listening Helps Parents Communicate with Children

Depression and Anxiety in Screenagers

Ask the Experts by Nicole Runyon

Q: Shortly after receiving her first smart phone in middle school, I began to see changes in my daughter’s behavior. She was more angry, retreated into herself and did not want to engage with the family as much. I have noticed her be more quite and withdrawn. She doesn’t seem happy. Should I be concerned?

A: Yes, you should be concerned. This generation of teens spends so much time in front of a screen that they have been named “screenagers.” They are addicted to smart phones, social media, and video games, to name a few.

Studies show 8-18 year olds spend on average six hours per day in front of a screen. That is more time than they spend doing their homework, socializing with their friends, or engaging in after school activities.

Read more: Depression and Anxiety in Screenagers

Children with Autism or Special Needs Face Greater Risk of Bullying in School

Ask the Experts by Kristy Piana Schena

Q: With so much focus on anti-bullying in the media today, I am surprised by a recent statistic I just heard – that nearly 1 in 4 students report being bullied during the school year. That number is even greater for students diagnosed with Autism or students with special needs. What can we do as parents on a local level?

A: We can begin by teaching our children at an early age that not everyone learns the same way. It is our job as parents to help our children distinguish differences and coach them to make appropriate responses. Many schools offer programs to try to reinforce this life-long lesson of being kind and patient.

Buddy or peer programs are available for students to develop compassion and understanding through hands-on experiences and interactions. The goal for these types of programs is that by giving “typical” learners the chance to work with an “atypical” learner they will stand up for a student who may be bullied and learn to treat others with respect, regardless of their individual challenges or differences.

Read more: Children with Autism or Special Needs Face Greater Risk of Bullying in School

The Consequences of Social Media on Adolescents and Families

Ask The Experts by Michael Dib

Q: My middle school child is part of that significant majority of adolescents who has a cell phone in her possession twenty four hours in a day. How do I regulate the use of that cell phone? 

A: Remember, you pay the monthly bill for that cell phone and you own it.

You should always know your child’s password and social log in to access phone usage. Make it a priority to regularly check your child’s use of online searches, text messaging, Facebook, Instagram, graphics, and Twitter. Checking your child’s cell phone use not only assists with discovery of information, but can lead to meaningful discussions with your child based upon the information obtained from cell phone history.

Also, depending on your family situation, have your child leave the phone with you when she goes to bed each night.

Ask yourself the question, “Is it absolutely necessary for my child to stay connected via technology from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am every day?”

Read more: The Consequences of Social Media on Adolescents and Families

Let’s Talk Tech

Ask the Experts by Beth Walsh-Sahutske

Q: I feel like my teen is forever on a screen of some sort: phone, iPad, gaming. It’s too much! Why don’t kids just go out and play anymore?

A: That’s an excellent question. Teenage years are a time when kids naturally crave that social time with friends as they begin to pull away from their parents and develop their own identity. The old story of our generation hanging out on the street until the streetlights came on just doesn’t seem to hold true for this generation in the same way. It is natural to compare our former 15 year old selves to current 15 year olds but this is a difficult comparison because our world has changed a lot.

Today’s kids’ time is far more programmed than ours with sports, clubs, activities and homework. Consequently, their “free time” is often far more limited. Often one teen’s free time does not line up with their friends’ free time but really the developmental need to pull away and socialize has not changed.

Read more: Let’s Talk Tech

Make Reading A Year Round Commitment

Ask the Experts by Nick Smith

Q: My child worked so hard during the school year to become a stronger reader. How do I keep his reading skills sharp during the summer months, especially when he does not enjoy reading?

A: A common concern among parents, especially those who have children that struggle with reading, is what to do over the summer so that the skills attained during the school year do not regress. According to a report released by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in reading for American students amounts to one month per year.

Eventually, year round schools will be the norm, and there will be no need for concern. Indeed there are already year round school choices in many districts. Slowly but surely, the realization that children are no longer needed to tend to crops during the summer months is resulting in reform.  Until that time, reading routines that had been established during the school year should continue without interruption through the summer months.

Read more: Make Reading A Year Round Commitment

Executive Functioning: What is it & What Can I do to Help?

Ask the Experts by Dona Johnson-Beach

Q: My child is bright but lives in the moment. My teen completes homework and then forgets to turn it in and gets frustrated. I don’t understand what the problem might be. Can anything be done to address these issues?

A: Your child’s difficulties could involve executive skills deficits. Executive functioning allows people to problem solve and engage in goal-directed activities. In other words – the control processes of the brain.

The frontal lobe is considered to be the center of executive functioning. Often students with ADHD have difficulties with executive functioning skills and can have a delay of 30% – affecting behavior and self-management skills. If your child sounds like the student above, executive functioning skills difficulties could be the problem.

Read more: Executive Functioning: What is it & What Can I do to Help?

Finding “Normal” in the Middle School Years

Ask the Experts by Michael Dib

Q: What is considered a normal middle school student?

A: Many times parents are worried by changes in their middle school aged child. Please keep in mind that there will be many internal chemical and hormonal changes that occur during adolescence. You will experience behaviors that were not prevalent or observable during elementary school.

Adolescents are constantly struggling with their sense of identity as they move toward independence. Middle school students often feel awkward about their bodies and may lack confidence. As a result, peer groups tend to influence interests and clothing styles. Indeed, middle school aged children can many times be narcissistic while alternating between high expectations and poor self-concept. Complicating these struggles, it is not uncommon for middle school students to create drama and build on that drama through social media like Facebook and Instagram.

Read more: Finding “Normal” in the Middle School Years

Avoiding Childhood Obesity

Ask the Experts by Donna Morrison

Q: I’m worried about my daughter’s weight and unhealthy eating habits, but I don’t want to put her on a diet. What else can I do to help her lose weight and eat healthier foods?

A: First, it’s important to focus on good health without overemphasizing body weight. Introducing healthier options for snack and meal times will provide your child proper nutrition, while also promoting positive eating behaviors.

Portioning is extremely important in the fight against childhood obesity, so be sure to plan appropriately sized meals. Getting the entire family involved is another great way to adopt and promote a healthier lifestyle without setting apart one child. Additionally, you can review the National Dietary Guidelines at ChooseMyPlate.gov for information regarding the primary food groups, nutritional values and portioning.

Read more: Avoiding Childhood Obesity

Finding Peace and Balance in a Stressful World

Ask the Experts by Gail Elliott Patricolo

Q. I work full time and try to take care of a busy family. My daughter has a full load at school and with sports. We both seem stressed out all the time and need some coping skills we can share with the rest of our family. The stress does not seem to go away and may even be hurting our health and relationships. Are there stress management skills I can learn? 

A. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s following an argument with your spouse or teenager, a looming deadline for homework or a big school project or wondering how you’re going to pay the bills next month, stress is, unfortunately, a part of life…for mothers and daughters.

“Stress can’t be avoided,” says Gail Elliott Patricolo, director of Integrative Medicine for Beaumont Health System. “What you need to focus on is how to deal with stress before it begins to affect your health in other ways.” And there are lots of stress reducing techniques.

Read more: Finding Peace and Balance in a Stressful World