The middle-school years present a new set of opportunities and challenges for a child. For example, now your tween can choose her own activities and friends. But it's also a time when social pressures can make your tween more vulnerable to unhealthy behaviors, such as skipping class, smoking and drinking alcohol.
Simply telling your tween "just say no" in sticky situations doesn't provide the ongoing encouragement and understanding she needs to effectively resist negative influences. To help your middle-schooler thrive:
- Make time to talk. "Instead of asking, 'Did you have a good day?' which solicits a flat yes-or-no response, ask, 'What happened at school today?'" says Margo Gardner, Ph.D., a research scientist at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York. But don't be turned off if your tween replies, "Nothing." Ask again later, then try again the next day if need be.
- Listen as they think out loud. Tweens want to discuss issues in a supportive environment, and that means you shouldn't interrupt with questions and comments. Let your tween brainstorm solutions to a problem. "It builds confidence and self-esteem," says Gardner. "And kids who project confidence are less likely to crumble under peer pressure."
- Support good friendships. Encourage friendships with kids whose values you like, and support participation in after-school activities.
- Know the five Ws:
- whom your tween is with
- what he is doing and why
- where he is
- when he will be back
Talk About Drugs—Often
Your kids need you to tell them about the emotional, physical and social risks associated with drug abuse. And if you doubt it helps keep them drug-free, think again. Kids who hear frequently about the dangers of illegal drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use them, says the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
by Natasha Persaud
From our sister publication, REMEDY, Fall 2010