How to Help 6th Graders Navigate Drama at School

Psst! Did you hear about Emily and Olivia? Oh my gosh they had the biggest fight ever. And Ryan started the whole thing! Everybody’s talking about it!

And so goes the story heard round the school.

Measly kid stuff . . . unless you’re Emily’s mom, Olivia’s small group leader, or Ryan’s pastor. You lucky few better be all ears and ready for tears.

Put any sixth grade class up against the latest hit reality show and you’ve got yourself a real contest. Help middle schoolers tone things down a bit—and maybe even enjoy life a whole lot more—with these simple tips. First up, tips to give your students’ parents:

Parents:

1. Be aware. The first year of middle school means 24/7 crisis mode for your kid. We’re talking fights with friends, a confusing and frustrating interest in the opposite sex, and the desperate attempt to fit in without looking like they’re trying to fit in.

And bless their hearts with those bodies. By the time next August rolls around, your preteen will grow roughly three inches and gain about ten pounds. Hormones will bring unwelcome surprises like acne and mood swings and awkwardness galore.

To make matters even worse, girls may begin menstruation and boys will notice that girls are outpacing them in pretty much every area of development. The changes are so obvious—so very visible—that it’s enough to make even the hormone-regulated among us sweat.

The key here isn’t to aggressively point out these changes but to simply be aware. Know what’s coming your way. Decide ahead of time to relax during delicate conversations. Smile, listen, encourage, advise. Remember: You made it through and so will your kid.

2. Make your home a haven. Let’s just call it like it is. Sixth grade beats up on kids and parents alike. While your son or daughter deals with drama all day at school, you take the nights and weekend shift.

Slammed doors, tears, and yelling—many preteens save their worst behavior for home. Still, and hear us out on this one, you must fight to make your home a safe place your sixth grader.

That’s because no phase of life has less consistency. 11-year-olds straddle lots of lines on the journey from being a kid to becoming a teen. A home that offers good food, plenty of rest, and lots of fun is hands-down the best place for sixth graders to figure everything out.

It really is that simple. And that powerful. So we’ll say it again: to make your home a haven focus on food, rest, and fun.

Church Leaders and Volunteers:

1. Be a friend. Yeah, we know, this sounds like a strange suggestion. Coach? Sure. Teacher? Definitely. But friend? Is that even appropriate?

Here’s the deal: Sixth graders are full with friends one moment and lonely as can be the next. And loneliness is a big deal. Kids this age are all about peer approval. They’ll conform when needed and mask emotions just to fit in. For someone so willing to play along, rejection is a punch to the gut.

With you as a friend, sixth graders find they can be themselves without risking rejection. And through informal conversation and laughter, you open the door for them to talk about their feelings—an especially big need for 11-year olds.

The biggest question a sixth-grader will ask is, “Who cares?” Your friendship is a wonderful answer.

2. Stay steady. Good luck getting preteens to say this out loud, but these guys and gals crave influence from adults who aren’t their parents. Hey, that’s you!

And the greatest gift you give a sixth grader is stability. As they face uncertainty on all fronts, you portray a God who is always certain. When they blame authority, you show them a leader who loves. When they push back, you prove you can’t be pushed away.

Support your sixth graders as they struggle through the year. Because they will struggle.

Your steadiness offers hope that, with time and by God’s grace, they’ll move beyond the drama and into the man or woman God is molding them to be.