Taking care of middle schoolers can be a challenging task. The child that you thought you knew is rapidly changing. The parenting techniques that worked for years may no longer serve you. Although you deeply love your child, their new way of moving through the world may feel foreign, strange, and uncomfortable.
In addition to taking care of your child, now is the time to focus heavily on taking care of yourself. The more that you pay attention to your own needs, the more available you’ll be for your child. The following are some forms of self-care that may help you parent your wonderful, changing young person.
- Therapy. Parenting has a way of remembering our past trauma, particularly whatever we experienced in childhood. Care work can also become all consuming, especially during times of our child’s life when they need us more than ever. Talking to a professional therapist not only can help you make sense of what is happening, it can also create a habit of setting aside time that is exclusively for yourself and your feelings. Having space to process your feelings outside of your home and community is essential for staying mentally healthy while parenting.
- Community. Spend time with close friends and family who make you feel happy, seen, and supported. This might also be a great time to make new friends who may be going through the same parenting challenges that you are facing. Note that you do not always have to use community to talk about your child. Go see a movie, go out to dinner, go for a hike, or do something else you enjoy. Scheduling times with friends and family is a great way to carve out time for yourself.
- Hobbies. One of the greatest challenges of the middle school years is watching your child become independent. They will not need you in the same way or to the same extent as they used to, at least when it comes to meeting their physical needs. You may find extra time or head space that you haven’t had in years. Help yourself take the focus off of your child by learning a new art form, joining a sports team, or picking up a skill you haven’t practiced in years. Start a book club, learn guitar, or finally finish that knitting project. Focus on something that is entirely yours, and that you can use to redirect the energy you once spent on your young child.
- Rest. When parenting is challenging, sleep is imperative. Go to bed at a regular time. Turn off screens an hour before bedtime. Try and sleep in a room that is quiet and dark. The more rested you are, the more clearheaded and patient you’ll be.
- Boundaries. Just like toddlers, middle schoolers love to push boundaries. But remember that boundaries are important for you as well. Set times of day when you can take care of your needs. Ask your tween to pitch in on chores so that you don’t have to do all the work. Make it clear that certain kinds of mistakes, like forgetting to turn in a homework assignment or not having spending money for small expenses, are no longer your responsibility. Doing this not only sets your middle schooler up for independence, it also models healthy behaviors that will serve them well when they become adults.