The ability to interact in meaningful and productive ways with others and to maintain healthy relationships with diverse individuals and groups helps contribute to a person’s overall success. During these years, your adolescent is learning more about how their feelings and behaviors affect others and gaining a better understanding of how relationships work. Your adolescent’s social world broadens as they enter middle school, and friendships, popularity, and being accepted become very important to her. The middle-school years bring about many challenges, especially between children and parents, as parents tend to focus on safety and academic and personal growth, while adolescents often care more about how they are perceived by their peers. Remember that every child develops at a different pace. Practicing these skills with your child can help their better-understand the intricacies of social interactions and provide them with the confidence needed to apply these abilities more independently.
During the middle-school years, young people are in transition from childhood to adolescence, and this can have an effect on their behavior. This phase is marked by emotional and physical growth. The onset of puberty may also make some teens unpredictable or moody and can cause them to feel out of control of their changing bodies. You can help your teen navigate through these years by taking the time to listen to his concerns and providing guidance and encouragement.
At this age, your child is better able to use their social skills to establish and maintain friendships. As your child expands their social circle and makes friends, they are learning more about the importance of listening, respecting diverse perspectives, and resolving conflicts. Middle school can be a socially challenging time for many children, and their friendships and relationships are always changing. Considering an adolescent’s unpredictable moods, these friendships may end abruptly and often, leading to hurt feelings.
This is a time when young people become more aware of their sexuality and attraction to others.
At this age, your child cares a great deal about peer relationships, and your child may distance themselves from you and want more privacy, personal time, and space in order to assert their growing independence.
Your middle-schooler may also be more exposed to peer pressure, bullying, and alcohol and drugs during these years. You can use your influence to help guide them through these unpredictable years and provide them with the support that your child needs to further develop their social skills.
Keep in mind that every adolescent develops at a different rate, leading to different social and emotional behaviors. The concepts highlighted in this section are based on the five sets of competencies developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). If you have concerns about your adolescent’s development, please contact his teacher or school counselor or your healthcare provider.
Learn more about how to support your child with our eighth-grade relationship tips page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab, and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.