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Middle Magic: Why Middle School Is Way Cool

How to help your middle schooler, even when the going gets tough and the brain goes haywire

Published on: July 25, 2016

Waverly Araucto | Photo by Will Austin 

I began hearing about middle school long before my child was anywhere close to entering it. “Just wait ’til middle school,” one experienced mom told me once when I complained of my toddler’s fussiness. I have heard middle school, and the age range of 11–14 in general, variously described as the ninth circle of hell, unbearable, a time to pass through white-knuckled. Not a place where you want to linger.

“Buckle your seatbelt,” another parent said to me not long ago when I mentioned my oldest child was finally about to cross the Rubicon this September.

As we barreled toward sixth grade, I began to wonder: Why such negativity?

It’s no wonder that middle school gets a bad rap. It’s the gateway to adolescence, when kids, ruled by hormones, seem to go haywire. Friends veer onto separate paths; homework and social pressures pile up.

It’s not just rough on kids. A study that looked at mothers’ well-being from their children’s birth until adulthood, published this year, found that moms felt more anxious, doubtful and dissatisfied when their kids were in middle school than in any other stage.

There must be something special about middle school, I thought. Where’s the magic?

There’s lots of magic, it turns out. You just need to look for it.

We did. In this package, we visit with kids as they cross a threshold. We meet some special adults who help them, and get ideas for how to support our own middle schoolers. And we give ourselves, and our kids, permission to celebrate being in the middle. 

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