The tween years may just be some of the most challenging of all for child and parent alike. Middle school is a uniquely awkward time, featuring highlights such as the start of puberty, new interest in the opposite sex, and outlandish amounts of insecurity. Combined, you end up with a perfect storm of relational drama and unchecked mood swings that can leave your head spinning! So what’s a parent to do? Help your child set boundaries!
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices.” -Henry Cloud, Boundaries.
Boundaries are not only good; they are also critically important. Here are a few simple ways to help your child set boundaries throughout the stages of puberty to make their lives more drama-free.
Setting Boundaries with Friends = Healthy
Friendships become incredibly important to children during the middle school years, making conflict within those relationships all the more painful. Teach your child early to address conflict head-on (with kindness), rather than letting it fester or talking about it endlessly with people other than the key players. Help your child understand that their value and worth is never determined by someone else’s opinion of them. Give your child the confidence to confront friends who are being unkind or unfair and give them permission to say “no” and remove themselves from the situation. Your middle schooler needs to know that they can always leave a situation and/or a friendship that is making them feel uncomfortable or unvalued, no matter what.
Bodily Autonomy Is Critical
It is never too early to teach your child about consent and bodily autonomy. (I started “consent” talks with my child at the age of two!) Teach your middle schooler:
- Their body is GOOD.
- Their body is beautiful, strong, and capable.
- Their body is fearfully and wonderfully made.
- Their body is their OWN.
- That absolutely no one has the right to touch their body without their consent.
- A step-by-step action plan if anyone violates their bodily boundaries.
Help your tween feel comfortable in their own skin so that they know the value and worth of the body God gave them.
Boundaries with Technology = Smart
Being accessible to friends and classmates 24/7 is not helping the overall climate of middle school life. Tweens need breaks from technology and social media for their mental well-being. In fact, some studies have linked excessive screen time to sleep problems, impulsive behavior, reduced emotional regulation, social problems, and increased aggression. Studies have even linked aggressive media to aggressive behavior in children. Stay in tune with your child’s presence and activity on social media channels and set common-sense boundaries for technology use within your home. A good place to start is:
- Carefully weigh the pros and cons before letting your tween use a smartphone. No middle schooler needs unlimited data!
- Utilize strong parental controls on all internet-enabled devices.
- Don’t allow phones or screens at the dinner table.
- Charge all phones and tablets in your room at night, not in your child’s room.
- Allow technology use only with the expectation that parents have the right to read/investigate/inspect any and all devices at any time.
Middle school is tough, but with carefully placed boundaries, your child can emerge healthy, happy, and with stronger relationships.
What boundaries do you think are most important for middle school students? At Virginia Academy, we believe that secondary education provides a great opportunity not only to prepare students for acceptance to top colleges but also to become the best versions of themselves—confident and successful individuals equipped to make a positive impact in every arena of life. Want to learn more? Start here.