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"When Should Parents Step In? Navigating Middle School Drama with Your Child"




Middle school is tough. Ask almost any adult if they would go back to middle school and most likely the answer is a resounding, “no!” - and there's a good reason for this! The middle school years are fueled by a tremendous amount of developmental growth, awkwardness and ever-changing friendships. It is completely normal for your middle school child to experience changes in their social world. Middle school is the time kids typically establish friendships based on common interests or social styles. Sometimes, this natural movement can be a bit rocky, and many parents struggle to know when to intervene in their child’s friendship world. Before taking action, start by understanding your child’s perspective.





Kids haven’t experienced the pressures of paying bills or managing a family’s schedule. We often have to remind parents that their kid’s social world is the most important and serious thing they have ever experienced. So to them, their friend drama is serious stuff. Ask your child if they would like support or help. Try framing the question like this: “Do you want time (to solve it on your own) or do you want help (solving it together?)” Some kids may take you up on your offer. Others may opt out because they want to maintain their independence, worry about looking un-cool, or fear potential retaliation from their peers. 


It is important for kids to build problem solving skills, which are often learned through trial and error. Unless a more pressing concern is occurring, let your child take the lead in making decisions about their social life. The parents’ role is to be the sounding board and help when situations become larger than their child’s developmental ability. Like in driver’s ed, your child is in the driver’s seat; however, you have the emergency break. 





There are a few warning signs to be aware of that may indicate that your child’s friendship drama is beyond the everyday or “typical” conflict. If you see your child experiencing any of these things, it could be a sign that you need to take action as a parent. And of course, if you suspect bullying, taking action sooner rather than later is preferred. 


  • 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, and/or drastic changes in style accompanied by mood changes

  • Changes in what they post on social media

  • Cruel “jokes” between friends (in person and/or over text)

  • Making fun of your child (in front of them and/or behind their back)

  • Rude comments about your family

  • Peers pressuring your child to do things they don’t want to do or say

  • A friend who is emotionally manipulative

  • A friend who is always mad at your child for silly things 

  • A friend who won’t allow your child to have other friends

  • Reports that school authorities are not being helpful



It is so important to keep the lines of communication open with your child. It is normal for kids this age to not want to talk to their parents, so sometimes a third party trusted adult or mentor can make a huge and positive impact. If you are struggling to have these conversations, reaching out to a therapist might be beneficial in this case.

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