Today’s guest blog comes from a very cool mom, Holly Tumpkin, of the wise, compassionate, and down-to-earth website 5 Things: Raising Girls in Today’s World. You can find Holly on her site or email her here.
Having had the privilege of talking to middle schoolers through the years, I’ve found they face very similar basic pressures, no matter what calendar year we’re in. The first group of middle schoolers I met with are all in college now. The pressures they felt back then are extremely similar to those of today.
Here are the top 5 common pressures middle schoolers have all expressed over the years.
1. Pressure to have a boyfriend.
2. Pressure to fit in and be popular.
3. Pressure to be skinny and wear makeup.
4. Pressure with grades and parents.
5. Pressure to like what other people like/pay attention to what others think.
If I had to sum things up as a spectator, middle schoolers feel an intense pressure to GROW UP whether they want to or not. I think some of the landmines of middle school are based in being in that “in between” mode. Most actually want to be young (they admit it when asked!) but feel such pressure to fit in, they begin feeling confused and divided. Often feeling forced to live a façade life untrue to their real selves.
GOOD NEWS!! I always tell middle schoolers this good news- You don’t have to grow up yet! It’s ok to act young! It’s ok to not have a boyfriend yet if you don’t want one! It’s ok to watch your entertaining kid shows still! It’s ok to wear makeup, or not! No one has to tell you what you’re supposed to like!
Somehow exposing the pressures and having someone validate differences helps them feel free to be who they really are. Surrounding themselves with like minded friends helps also. It’s important to have discussions throughout their middle school years of what makes a true friend. True friends help you live out your true self.
To help them think through issues such as boyfriends and body image, we have discussions based on pros and cons of what the pressures are…whether it’s a pros and cons list of having a boyfriend in 7th grade, or whether we analyze magazines and debunk false beauty myths. Helping them think through issues with a perspective bigger than the four walls of their school does wonders.
P.S. Everyone survives middle school! (Even the parents!) ☺