Parenting looks different as kids age. The love is the same, but it manifests differently.

Parenting a middle schooler can be difficult.

There are so many new things to discuss and new concerns for our preteens. Middle school is tough; I don’t think anyone would argue that.

Middle schoolers get pulled in so many directions and it is confusing what path they should follow. It is often our job as adults who love them to help them navigate their way. But we also need to realize our boys and girls probably won’t think they need our help.

We need to help them develop a moral compass. We are trying to build the child’s self-esteem and teach them self-love can be the best love, but we also want to encourage selflessness.

They are in control of their lives but still follow our rules. That can be confusing for parents and children alike. We often tell them what to do and what not to do, but also tell them to follow their hearts. Then we pray they strike the right balance.

We often have to choose our battles.

You may hate that your tween is wearing shorts in January, but it’s unlikely he is going to get sick from having cold legs. It may not be worth a fight at 7 a.m.

We try to be honest and straight talk about our expectations, our wishes, and our desires. But we have to remember that we need to listen to their wishes and desires, too.

It’s important that our past doesn’t drive their future. Occasionally, we will see something we missed out on in our tween years and want to live vicariously through them.

Or we will think of our own mistakes and cause our children more angst by being overly cautious. If they start to head down a similar path, we may want to jump in and take control. We need to let them learn on their own.

Sometimes the hardest lessons are the strongest lessons.

We can share stories of our own adolescence, but I think it is best if we don’t impose our desires on them. What worked for us may not for them. My husband was an SCA officer for several years, but my son is not interested in running for office. That needs to be OK. I went to every dance offered through the school, and my son is not interested in any dances. We have to accept that’s OK.

Our growing children need their sleep. Sometimes we have to let them sleep late on weekends, but encourage them to go to bed early on school nights. There’s no denying how essential sleep is for their growing bodies and brains. And I think it’s best if we don’t let them sleep with devices by them. I admit that I don’t even have self-control when my cell phone is right next to me.

And I know it’s obvious, but we may need to remember that our boys and girls are dealing with a wide range of hormones and emotions. They are trying to strike a balance between academics, athletics, social life, and downtime.

Sometimes they get things wrong.

Research shows that the tween brain is still developing and they don’t have impulse control. That is huge. Maybe we should believe them more when they say they didn’t mean it.

If we want to support our middle schoolers, maybe we need to speak the truth, but with love in our voice.

Our middle schoolers are changing, so our relationship has to change.

Our tweens still need us—but in very different ways.

Originally published on the author’s page

You may also like:

Dear Daughter As You Move On To Middle School

What Your Middle Schooler Needs to Know

Can We Let our Tweens Be Kids Just a Little Longer?

Andrea Smolin

Andrea is a special education teacher in Virginia Beach, wife to a police officer, and mommy to three wild and amazing little men. She is passionate about working hard, equality, and living a healthy life. She is a lover of all things- especially when they involve caffeine and wine. Her work has been featured through Her View from Home, Scary Mommy-It’s Personal, Reader's Digest, Red Mill Living, Pregnancy Corner, Kindness Matters, and Love What Matters. When she isn't dreaming of saving the world, she is chasing after her three boys. Follow her on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mommyto3littlemen/ or on Twitter @Andreapsmolin