A Guide to Your Child in Middle School

Middle school is an exciting time for a child and for the parents. Middle school students are on their way to becoming independent, developing their own interests, and preparing for high school and beyond. Here's what you should know about today's middle school kids, and what you can expect during these transitional years.


Middle School Kids Are Complex

Students talking in a hall
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Tweens face a number of challenges during the middle school years such as puberty, bullying, dating and other issues. It's no wonder so many preteens struggle with anxiety or exhibit behavioral problems. Self-esteem may suffer during middle school, as students compare themselves with their peers. It's also possible that your middle school kid's grades will drop. Sometimes even good students will rebel against school, homework, and grades. Knowing what your child is up against during the school day helps you prepare them for the challenges when you're not there to help.


Middle School Kids Struggle With Peer Pressure

Your child faces unbelievable pressure to fit in, and peer pressure is at its worst during these pre-high school years. It's hard for children to resist peer pressure, even when parents do their best to help or prepare a child for the pressures that come from friends and schoolmates.

Know what's going on in your community, so you're aware of some of the pressure your child is up against. Peer pressure could include the pressure to:

  • Date
  • Drink
  • Smoke
  • Skip school
  • Bully others
  • Rebel against authority

Self Image Is Huge With Preteens

The middle school years are difficult, there's really no getting around that. One of the reasons they can be so challenging for parents is that your once sweet child has become an egocentric monster — or at least that's how it appears. While this behavior is difficult to live with, it's also perfectly normal for the preteen crowd. In other words, it's normal for your middle school student to think she's the center of the universe. How you react to your child's self-absorbed behavior is key. For starters, gently remind her that she's part of a family and that her words and actions can hurt others.

Also, be sure you point out when her behavior is unacceptable and won't be tolerated. Be patient, give her a little space to calm down when she needs to, and set clear guidelines on house rules, behavior, etc.


Middle School Kids Are Developing Interests

Preteens are in the process of discovering who they are, and that includes what their interests and hobbies might be. Children need some sort of enrichment outside of school. Your preteen should feel free to pursue interests, even if they aren't the same interests he had in elementary school. Encourage your middle school kid to join a school club, try out for a play, or a school sports team, or engage in some other extracurricular activity.


Middle School Students May Challenge the Rules

Don't be surprised if your once angelic child challenges your rules at home or the rules of his middle school. Be clear about consequences should your tween rebel, and don't expect perfection all the time. Your child is trying to understand what he can and can't get away with, and he's testing limits. Be understanding, but firm and discuss your expectations for him at home, at school and when he's out with his friends.


Tweens Fear Social Rejection

The middle school years can be really tough on a child, especially if they struggle with friendships, face bullying, or aren't accepted by their peers. Your child's behavior might indicate a problem at school. Children who are bullied may withdraw from their peers, may experience anxiety or have trouble focusing on studying. If your child has trouble making friends, try to find out why, and find ways to expand your child's circle of friends through activities and other organizations. If necessary, consult the school guidance counselor for insight into your child's relationships.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Masselink M, Van Roekel E, Oldehinkel AJ. Self-esteem in Early Adolescence as Predictor of Depressive Symptoms in Late Adolescence and Early Adulthood: The Mediating Role of Motivational and Social FactorsJ Youth Adolesc. 2018;47(5):932-946. doi:10.1007/s10964-017-0727-z

  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Peer Pressure.

  3. Rai R, Mitchell P, Kadar T, Mackenzie L. Adolescent Egocentrism and the Illusion of Transparency: Are Adolescents as Egocentric as we Might Think? Current Psychology. 2014;35(3):285-294. doi:10.1007/s12144-014-9293-7.

  4. The Nemours Foundation. Helping Kids Cope With Cliques.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.