Starting your middle schooler back to school is an exciting time. They’re eager to get back to school and spend time with their friends, again. Packing the backpack is more of a ‘together’ activity. Preparing for the coming school year consists of a lot of exciting choices. Help set your child up for success during the new school year by helping teach them how to make great choices, and handle stress correctly.
Middle School Stress and its Effects on the Body
Our bodies work like a Swiss watch–every organ and process is its own gear, and when they’re all working together, the watch functions properly. When one piece is out of alignment, the gears grind on each other and the watch doesn’t work as it’s supposed to.
When an organ or process in the body isn’t working like it should, the entire body stops functioning properly and puts all its focus into getting back to wellness and homeostasis.
Part of the processes in this Swiss watch is the production and conversion of certain hormones. This includes converting some into the stress hormone, cortisol. This depletes the hormones that are converted into cortisol, meaning the more cortisol that is produced, the less of the others you have.
The human body receives stress from three sources: physical, mental, and chemical. These are also called the three Ts: traumas, toxins, and thoughts. Physical stresses, also called traumas happen when we fall, hyperextend a joint, or get whacked in the face for whatever reason. Mental stresses—thoughts—are things like deadlines and challenges with friends. Chemical stress comes from allergens, unbalanced hormones, or toxins within the body, which is why another name for these stressors is “toxins.”
The challenge comes from the fact that the human body doesn’t tell the difference between these three. It’ll react the same way to a bear attack as mounting homework and social struggles.
This is why just looking at one of these sources to see how much stress your middle schooler is under doesn’t give you the full picture. Maybe they aren’t falling off the monkey bars every recess, but are they having struggles with friends? Are they under stress to keep up with school work? Don’t just dismiss the idea that they’re struggling with getting homework done because they are getting it done. They may be feeling more pressure to get it done than those who are visually struggling. Did they take a fall a few weeks ago that might have shoved something out of alignment and not gotten it addressed? That tumble and the resulting jar could still be adding physical stress to their body.
How do you address these potential stressors? Let’s take a look at a few and see.
Middle School and Changing Friends
As adults, it can be easy to look back and see why it was important for us to change friendships, grow in other areas and expand our social circles. As a child in the midst of struggles with, or the changing of, friends, though, it can be extremely stressful.
As we grow up and mature, we change, and those we connect with change. We go through different phases of our life. Everything we are interested in is a phase; some last longer than others, but everything is a phase. Not everyone is interested in the same things at the same time. The people we’re friends with at one point may not be our friends at another stage in life. Some friends are in our lives for a reason, others for a season, and still others for a lifetime. This is important to help your child realize. If they’re stepping away from a friend, or a friend is stepping away from them, it’s not always–or even often–personal.
Your Friends are Your Choices
We can all remember times in our life we made bad choices, or started down a path we later came to regret. The phases your child’s friends are going through may be phases of bad choices or actions you don’t agree with. In this time it is important to help your middle schooler see that it takes a special kind of strength to recognize that and step away. Talk with your child and help them recognize the difference between good and bad choices–which of their friends are making which kind. Talk with them about how to make their own good choices, even when the bad choices seem more fun in the moment.
We are the five people we hang out with the most–who is your child hanging out with the most? Our future self is a direct result of the choices we’re making now. Sit down with your child and walk them through the natural consequences of their present choices, actions, and thoughts. Who do they want to be? What choices do they need to make to get there? How can they bring this up to their friends when they’re are making bad choices? Show your child that it’s important to show a friend a cliff they may be walking toward, but that, ultimately, we’re each responsible for our own choices. And, sometimes, as hard as it is, the best choice is to walk away.
Middle School and Changing Hormones
We all know kids grow up too fast. One moment, they’re just being born, and the next you’re seeing them toe the line of their teen years and puberty. Even before puberty officially hits, things are changing on the inside, and new things are appearing.
The changes in mind and body that are starting to occur happen to everyone. Some middle schoolers start to experience it early on, while other people may not start to feel things change until high school. This time can be hard and unpredictable for both your child’s mind and body. In this time, it’s important to remember that people have been going through this since shortly after the dawn of creation; you’ll make it through, too. For more information and help getting through this, check out our Teen Journey series.
This time of change can feel just as chaotic to those walking through it with a loved one as the one going through it themselves. Everyone’s journey to adulthood is different, and everyone is doing it for the first and only time. Keep lines of communication open with your middle schooler. Be a safe place for them to come to–show them how to think, not what to think. Here, too, help them think through the consequences of their actions and choices. If they bring up ideas, or do something you don’t agree with, help them think through it–don’t jump down their throat right away. Allow open discussion on both sides.
Middle schoolers, kids, and teens both need a safe place to think things through and go to for advice. If they don’t find a safe place with you, they’ll go looking for others who are. And those safe places may lead them down paths you don’t agree with. Or, they may go to their friends, who are also caught in the middle of growing up and don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Allow open communication, questions, and debates. Help your child think so they can make good choices when you’re not there to tell them what is right, and what is wrong.
Middle School and Mental Health
New changes can be a lot to deal with, especially if you’re dealing with chemical, physical, and other mental stresses on top of it. Keeping up with these changes and staying on top of everything constantly without a break can also make it harder. Listen to your middle schooler if they’re saying it’s getting to be too much. Encourage to let you know if this is the case. If they keep trying to squirm out of going to school, that might also be a sign that things are getting to be too much.
Take Away the Expectations to be an Adult, Sometimes
There’s no glory in good grades if your child’s health suffers because of it.
Your middle schooler is still a child; let them be. Do they need a break from being a “big kid” and just be allowed to play with Legos or color outside the lines? It may sound silly but taking away the expectations of being good at something can often be more of a relief than it seems like it will be. Let your middle schooler have mental health days just like they have sick days. Let them play with child’s toys, run around the backyard, sing off key–the things they may not let themselves do while their peers are watching, but that they may need to do to give their mind a break.
The best thing you can do to encourage this may be to join them on the floor, in the backyard, or at the crayon box. It’s much easier to be silly and throw off hesitations when you’re not doing it alone. And, who knows, maybe you need the same chance–to be a kid, again.
What is Your Middle Schooler Being Fed?
This goes for what their mind is being fed just as much as what their body is being fed.
Is your middle schooler regularly eating their allergens? Are they eating sugars, dyes, GMOs, or the dirty dozen? Are they drinking milk or eating dairy? Are they in consistent contact with toxic cleaning agents, deodorants, lotions, or hair products?
What’re their minds being fed–what are they watching or reading? What are they seeing on the internet? How much blue light are they absorbing with daily screen time? Does your little one need a screen detox? Do they need to redirect their entertainment to something lighter or less stressful? Do they need to talk through the topics being brought up in their books, shows, or movies? Are the topics or images they’re taking in feeding their minds with good thoughts, or do they need help setting boundaries and making good choices?
Middle Schoolers and Their Changing Bodies
When the one thing that has always been dependable in your life–your body and how it fits you–is suddenly in flux, it can very easily be overwhelming and stressful. Boys’ voices are dropping. Both boys and girls are growing hair in new places and are dealing with processes like oil and sweat production getting a boost. Other things that have never been happening suddenly are, and it can feel like you no longer know your own body.
Here, too, it is important to be a steady presence in their life. Their bodies are changing, and that can be a beautiful thing. Help them see this, and that–just because they don’t recognize themselves anymore and are being pushed into the unknown–whether the physical signs have begun to show themselves yet or not–it isn’t a completely unmapped process. Be steady–this is just as beautiful of a time in their life as it can be overwhelming.
Help your middle schooler release some additional physical stresses by getting adjusted by a chiropractor to keep their Swiss watch in alignment.
To get adjusted, get your middle schooler’s allergies tested, or learn more about making healthy choices in this stage of life, contact a Wellness Way clinic today!