Things I wish I knew when my daughter started junior high
Okay, so I’ll admit it. When my daughter started junior high, I barely knew WTF I was doing. But now that Zoey’s in the 8th grade and she’s 2/3 of the way through, after making thousands of mistakes, I can officially say I’ve learned a few things. So here goes. Here are a bunch of things I wish I knew when Zoey started this journey through hell, uhhh, I mean junior high.
- If you are up worrying about your daughter in the middle of the night, just know that 9 out of 10 other moms are doing exactly the same thing. You might not be worrying about the same issue, but you are literally NEVER the only one worrying.
- If you’ve raised a NICE kid, that is awesome. The world thanks you!!!! But now you might need to teach her to advocate for herself a little more. Giving up her seat to someone else in the cafeteria is SUPER nice. And she’ll end up sitting alone.
- You can’t keep her off social media forever, so you need to teach her how to handle it. No matter how popular she is, she WILL see other kids hanging out without her. No matter how self-confident she is, she WILL see plenty of videos that tell her she needs to change something about herself. And no matter how long you keep her off social media, eventually she WILL join. Are there good things about it? A few. Are there bad things? A few thousand.
- Keep telling your daughter she is gorgeous. Over and over and over again. At an age where lots of things are changing on her body (or not changing fast enough), she might need to hear it A LOT to believe it. And don’t point out her “flaws.” There are plenty of other people who will do that, so your job is to do the complete opposite.
- If you can find a very honest friend who has a daughter who is older than yours, they will be your best source of advice and information. Even the ways they’ve F’ed up will be helpful for you to know.
- Teach your girl to look out for other girls, but teach her the FIRST girl she needs to look out for is herself. Junior High=The Hunger Games. Your daughter=Katniss. A slight exaggeration, but things do get a little more cutthroat.
- If you over-engineer your kid’s social life, she will probably have a lot of plans. She will also have something else. A bunch of friends she didn’t pick herself and an inability to handle her own social life as she gets older. “Hi Nancy, I was just wondering whether Michael would like to go to the prom with my daughter Annabelle?” See what I mean?
- There will be shitty kids in almost every group. Your kid doesn’t have to be best friends with the shitty kids, but she can’t avoid them completely. Teach her to navigate the shitty kids, not avoid them.
- Your daughter will probably start spending a lot of time in her room. This is normal. Don’t expect her to come out as much. Which is why you need to go in. No matter how much she protests, no matter how messy it is, go in, sit down, hang out for a few minutes once in a while. And make her come down for dinner. Forcing her to spend 15 minutes with you is not mean. It’s love.
- Junior high is like social media. Even if it looks like everyone else is coasting though having a great time, they are not. Almost everyone is struggling with some problem you can’t see. This won’t help your problems get better, but sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
- There will be bumps along the way. Some will be tiny speed bumps, and some will be massive mountains. And even though all you want is for your daughter to tell you she’s good and everything is hunky dory, really what you want is for her to confide in you. If your daughter says she’s struggling, as much as it sucks, this means she’s coming to you about her problems. And that’s a good thing.
- If you are up worrying about your daughter in the middle of the night, just know that 9 out of 10 other moms are doing exactly the same thing. You might not be worrying about the same issue, but you are literally NEVER the only one worrying. And yes, I meant to put this one twice.
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As the school year begins, I sooooo needed to read this! 7th grade girl mom here.
Same goes for boy moms too. Love this! Thanks for the honesty.
Everything you wrote is truth. It’s far more brutal than when we were kids. Social media to thank for that. And I would add crying. I have cried. On my own. Praying for her. She is a junior now. Things aren’t perfect. But better. Still up at night though. Middle school son now. More worry. Lol.
Truth, but how do you navigate shitty kids?!? Honestly, this is where I struggle with advice to my kids.
Yes! I would like to know how to do this as well! 🙈
I was thinking about that one for a long time. (Pretend this is you advising your kid bc I wrote it in first person and I’m guessing you’re not in JH) I guess if you avoid the shitty kids, you not only risk making them lash out toward you, you’re kind of making yourself like them. Navigating, to me, you don’t have to be besties- but make the effort to, at the very least, say hi. Once in a while ask how they are doing. Sometimes this actually turns the shitty kids into something you never thought.. friends. But if it’s seriously just a nonstarter, hi is better than sticking up your nose? This is what I’d tell my kids after thinking about it.
From my experience, you be honest. Some people are real friends and some are fake friends. Some people are really crappy. Middle School is a super weird and tricky time of life. Navigate the best you can and then come home and be mad/sad/hurt. We can take it all and will give you the space you need. For my daughter, we signed up for Kindle Unlimited because she finds reading to be an escape. We also buy baking supplies because it helps her work out her feelings. And we talk a lot about how much better High School is – her older sister and other kids we knew all found their people in HS. For some of MS, you just have to power through.
2 out of 3 years in middle school, my daughter has sat with “friends” at lunch. Some of them are nice kids and some of them only talk to her until someone better/cooler/more popular/pretty/etc comes along. So we talked about that and how it made her feel. The answer is crappy. But also like she didn’t want to change because she wants to have people to sit with at lunch. Totally understandable! So, she sat with them, but she kept it light. Didn’t share much personal details with girls she couldn’t trust. And if she got nervous, then she would bake something and bring “leftover cookies” to the table as an ice breaker.
One friend was using my daughter to text boys she liked to tell them funny things her friend had done. For things like that, I told her she had to stop and then had her tell the girl that “my mom checks my texts and will take away my phone if I don’t stop texting randos”.
I’m a mom raising two boys. As much as I appreciate the insight into raising daughters, I really hope you also share some input on raising boys!! My oldest is 10 and I’m starting to find it difficult to communicate openly…. he doesn’t show a lot of emotion (good or bad) and I don’t want to just assume he’s good all the time. But when I ask questions he just says short answers like “I’m good” or whatever. He doesn’t communicate in detail. Maybe he’s just good and has no issues, but how do I know when he isn’t good and doesn’t just openly tell me so? Sigh…. lol
I find the best way to chat is in the car! Everyone is more open in her car and I’ve gotten LOADS of good intel from the drivers seat
If your daughter struggles with anxiety already it may get worse in junior high, seeing a doctor who can prescribe medication to help with that and finding a supportive therapist may be invaluable for both of you.
Teach them that whatever they are feeling most of the other kids are feeling the same or something similar. She is not the only one feeling left out or depressed or scared.
Remember that as parents we are their rock and they are the waves crashing in. They need us to stay strong as they maneuver through a very challenging time in their lives
Thank you for writing this article!