Middle School: New Challenges, New Solutions
- has trouble concentrating or making a decision
- is angry, restless, and irritable
- exhibits a drop in academic performance
- has trouble getting along with peers and siblings
- complains of headaches or muscle aches
- has low energy
- shows a sudden change in appetite or weight
- complains of insomnia
- stops caring about appearance and hygiene
- spends much more time alone
- skips classes or, if he or she shows up for class, fails to pay attention
- drops out of usual activities (sports, music, hobbies)
- has trouble expressing his or her feelings
Depression as a teen can set up a pattern that recurs when the teen is an adult, setting your child up for a long-term battle against major depression. Untreated, it can also lead to more immediate problems, like drinking and drugs, as your teenager attempts to self-medicate. Best to try to stay on top of it and get treatment when the problem starts. And don't get all caught up worrying that your child will be singled out and ridiculed for seeking psychological help. If you treat this as a medical issue and the need to see a specialist as merely "going to the doctor," you can detect that kind of peer misbehavior. And besides, the important thing is to get help if you feel it's needed.
We were lucky that we all survived this period in our lives. Corey has gone on to lead a full and healthy life. She has even forgiven her father, something I still struggle with, and I can now look back at all the upheaval in our lives and realize that the three of us were all working hard to keep everything together and focus on our goals.
I'm a big believer in pushing hard. The world is a difficult place, and if our children are going to succeed in it, they have to know how to work. Your student may not be the next Nobel Prize-winning scientist, but she is certainly never going to get anywhere if she isn't focused on a goal. Not all students are going to be academically brilliant, but all students can achieve. Sometimes in middle school, because of the increased peer pressure and the effect of the hormones running through their bodies, students will start to fall away from the college-bound path. It is up to the parents to remind them--to push them if necessary--back on track.
Miss Sharon Says
Grow Your Student's Interests: Bring home books, games, and toys related to the subjects your student likes. Encourage exploration by visiting museums, galleries, factories, parks, and businesses.
Emphasize Education as a Right: Find creative ways to encourage the kind of thinking you want from your student. Even something as simple as a wall calendar in your kitchen featuring twelve people famous for their contributions to science, history, or the arts shows your commitment to valuing education.
Take Puberty in Stride: If you need help talking to your student about the changes happening to his or her body, get help. There are plenty of books and Web sites on how to start and continue potentially embarrassing conversations. See the Resources section at the end of the book for suggestions.
Recognize Depression for What It Is: Don't overreact to every little mood swing. Keep a journal of any behaviors that seem indicative of depression and if you see a pattern over time, seek help.
More on: Parental Involvement
From Say Yes To College: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Raising College-Bound Kids by Sharon Chandler and Elizabeth Crane. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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