middle school kids

5 Middle School Experiences That Hurt Kids the Most

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“I don’t even remember what I was saying,” my friend Ann recently told me. She was talking about an interaction she had with her best friend in middle school. They were both a part of the popular crowd. She was complaining about something when all of a sudden, her friend shouted, “Enough! I don’t want to be your friend anymore!” And just like that, their friendship was over. Her friend took the “in crowd” with her and a movement against Ann spread through her entire class. It was a lonely year filled with cruel comments.

Fortunately for Ann, her family moved at the end of the school year, so she was able to start over. But that experience cut deep and affected her for many years. In general, I think middle school is the toughest part of adolescence, filled with uncertainty and pain. As dads, we can do a lot to alleviate that pain, but we need to be on the lookout for the trouble spots. Here are 5 experiences that hurt middle school kids the most.

1. Being Isolated

Middle school is the ultimate transitional time. Everything is shifting, including relationships. Friendships start to change and middle school kids have a limited ability to think of another person’s feelings. So when they start to feel differently about a friend, they might cut the friendship off abruptly. It can feel isolating, especially when others follow along, which happened to my friend Ann.

How to help: Be patient, loving, present, and understanding about how challenging this time is for them.

2. Being Bullied

This is similar to teasing, but the level of hurt and trauma is increased tenfold or more. Being bullied makes middle school kids feel powerless, weak, isolated, awkward, and beaten down with implications that can last for decades.

How to help: Intervene. Don’t assume your child would never bully. Look for the signs and be proactive in talking about it. If your child is on the receiving end, do whatever you can to protect him or her.

3. Being Teased

This is a time of tremendous uncertainty. Middle schoolers don’t know who they are, their bodies are changing, they feel awkward and unsure of themselves. So being teased at this time is more painful than ever. It only makes them feel more insecure about who they are.

How to help: Don’t add to the chorus of teasing. Be a safe place of encouragement.

Most dismiss middle schoolers as awkward, but they’re young people in desperate need of caring adults.

4. Being Misunderstood

Again, at this age, they don’t really know who they are and definitely have difficulty communicating. So they’re easily misunderstood and it’s unsettling. Most people just dismiss middle schoolers as obnoxious and awkward, but they’re young people wandering in the desert in desperate need of caring adults.

How to help: Listen to them and try to understand their likes, dislikes, and struggles.

5. Late or Early Body Development

Having a changing body is difficult enough. However, when tweens are late bloomers, they feel left behind. It’s like all of their friends have moved into a new phase and they’re stuck in childhood. And when they are first to change, they feel like a freak, on display in front of everyone.

How to help: Don’t make fun of their changes or lack of them. Be discreet when you talk to them about it and reassure them that everyone will eventually be on the same playing field again.

Sound off: What are some painful experiences for middle school kids that we need to look out for?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s been the most challenging change you’ve had to deal with this year?”