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"Navigating Middle School Drama: A Parent's Guide to Intervention"

If you are following along from last month, we wrote about navigating the challenges of your middle schooler’s drama. Last month we explored how to effectively listen to your child and how to ask them if they need “help or time” to solve the problem. We discussed how important it is for children to develop confidence in their problem-solving skills, and how sometimes “helping” them do so may look like a parent and child working together behind the scenes to come up with a solution. We began to explore how to intervene should you suspect bullying or see significant symptoms in your child. Let’s pick up from there! 

The most common reason parents intervene in their child’s social world, especially in middle school, is if they suspect bullying. Bullying is defined as the persistent and intentional hurting of another person (or group) where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. There are several types of bullying, including:

Verbal - name calling, teasing, taunting, threatening

Social - hurting someone’s relationships or reputation, not letting them play in the group game, spreading rumors, embarrassing someone

Physical - hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping…

Virtual - over social media  

Begin with gathering as much information as you can. This may take more than one conversation with your child, and that’s okay. The key is to make sure that you understand the situation completely before moving forward. After gathering the information, respond to the situation; don’t react. Responding is different from reacting, because it means you are taking the time to process the situation first and then deciding the best course of action. Once you have decided what you need to do next, explain to your child, at a developmentally appropriate level, what will happen moving forward. For example, if you need to get the school involved you may say something like, “Thank you for coming to me with the problem. It is a big problem and we need to take appropriate next steps to keep you safe. It’s my job to protect you and today that means that I need to have a conversation with your teachers about what is going on. Do you have any questions about that?” Take some time to answer their questions and help soothe any anxieties they may have. Most preteens and teens worry about feeling embarrassed or about other friends finding out what’s going on. Create space for your child to process those feelings. 

If you decide that you need to get your child’s school involved, stick to the facts and try to remain calm when sharing information. The school will likely need time to come up with a plan of action, so make sure you set up a follow-up appointment to learn what steps will be taken to protect your child. 

Lastly, seek out help for your child. If they are exhibiting worrisome symptoms and/or behavior, it may be a good idea to reach out for professional help. Here are some signs that therapy might be a critical next step for your child: 

Decrease in grades and/or increased school avoidance

Socially isolating or withdrawing

Drastic mood changes like increased anger, irritability, or sadness

Drastic changes in appearance like weight loss or lack of hygiene

Drastic changes in style accompanied by mood changes

Changes in what they post on social media

If you are unsure if you should intervene or know you should intervene but need guidance on how, reach out to our team and we can walk through it together. Likewise, if you feel your child needs therapeutic services, we would be happy to talk more about your needs. 

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