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Forming Social Circles in Middle School

by Ronald A. Rowe | October 16th, 2014 | Social, Tweens

friends-204325_1280Junior High School can be a scary time in the life of a child.  Entering the tween years with all sorts of new and unwanted changes going on inside their bodies, these transitional years can be awkward for even the most well-adjusted youth.  Tweens will seek out a social clique that they can identify as their peers.  The selection of their primary social circle is one of the most influential factors that will play a big part in determining the trajectory of a child’s development on the road to High School and beyond.  Here are four tips to help manage the process without giving the appearance of meddling.

You Can’t Do It For Them – As appealing as it may sound, you cannot choose a social circle for your tween.  You may see that little Susie and her friends would make the perfect playmates for your daughter but that doesn’t make it a fit.  In fact, pushing too hard to shoehorn your child into a parent-approved group will almost universally result in resentment and rebellion.

Opposites Don’t Always Attract – Tweens are most likely to flock together in groups along the lines of similar backgrounds or interests.  Students who are not involved in any extracurricular activities are at the greatest risk of falling into unsavory company.  Encourage your tween to get involved in something — band, sports, cheerleading, chorus, chess club — the list of extracurriculars available to today’s tweens is long and varied.  Getting your child involved in a structured activity beyond the confines of the classroom will go a long way toward helping him or her choose a peer group and vastly increases the odds that it will be one that parents will approve.

More Isn’t Necessarily Better — If your tween is floundering, you may be tempted to sign him up for many different extracurricular activities in the hopes of finding one that sticks.  But too many after school activities can be overwhelming and have the opposite effect.  Good kids can be undone academically by trying to focus on too many things at once.  If your tween is not currently active, get her into one activity to start.  It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment.  She can trade off later if need be.  If the activity takes only a minimal commitment — such as a chess club that meets once a week for an hour — you may consider adding a second.  But if that one hour a week evolves into a second meeting plus practice at home plus tournaments on weekends, that may be enough.

Monitor Discreetly — Once your child is plugged into an activity, he will begin making connections with his peers.  You can observe these interactions without forcing the issue.  Arrive a few minutes early for pick up after band and get a glimpse into the relationships.  Then you will be prepared when the extra-extracurricular activities — sleepovers, movies, etc. — start to creep in.

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