- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

Think ahead.

One of our best tools for parents is being prepared. As your son or daughter gets to the middle school years, get ready for at least occasional conflicts. Think through what is truly important to you. Know ahead of time what areas you are willing to negotiate and what areas are absolutes.

Break down big chores into small parts.

Sometimes young people feel overwhelmed by tasks, especially those they have let go for a long time. A disastrous bedroom, 23 overdue math assignments, a long-term project that is "suddenly" due in a few days all of these can cause the pre-adolescent to give up rather than get started. Help your child by setting smaller goals: Clean off your bed, get five assignments done tonight, assemble the materials for the project. Pre-adolescents have trouble structuring tasks so they are more approachable.

Encourage your middle schooler to keep a daily list (weekly is too much) with a few things on it to be done that day.

It may be necessary to assign a specific time to each task. When the task is completed, draw a line through it to show accomplishment.

Don't hesitate to remind your middle schooler about appointments and due dates.

Try to think ahead about materials required for a project. This will not last forever. When the same child was learning to walk, we held his or her hands and made the path smooth. Now he or she is learning to take on a tremendous assortment of life tasks and changes. Hand-holding is needed for about a year or so as your middle schooler gets started on the road to being a responsible adult.

Be willing to listen, but don't poke or pry.

Children this age value independence and often seem secretive. Keeping to themselves is part of the separateness they're trying to create.

If your child is in the midst of a longtime friendship that is falling apart, the best thing you can do is stand by and be a good listener.

It is devastating for us to see our children hurting, but taking sides or intervening is not appropriate, nor will it help. Pre-adolescents do survive these hurts, especially if they know we are there to listen to their pain.

Source: The National Middle School Association

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