Those Middle School Years Might Be Awkward, But Here’s What They’re Teaching Our Kids

Believe it or not... there's an upside to those awkward years

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Those Middle School Years Might Be Awkward, But Here’s What They’re Teaching Our Kids

“She’s nervous,” I told my coworker about my daughter who’s 11, as we sat outside on a warm day eating lunch. “Who can blame her?” I said. “She’s going to middle school.”

“Middle school was awesome,” my coworker said, her voice laden with sarcasm. “I had braces and wore glasses and a back brace.”

“I wore braces, too,” I commented. “And I was the tallest kid in 7th grade. Boys called me the Jolly Green Giant.”

She nodded, chewing thoughtfully on her sandwich. Pretty sure I saw her shudder.

But that’s when it hit me. I looked at the two of us, all these years later, both successful at work and fulfilled with families we love and I realized something…

What if middle school didn’t crush us after all? What if the physical awkwardness and the embarrassing social mishaps of those grueling years actually taught us invaluable lessons that prepared us for life? 

I think the answer is that it did. And I can’t wait to tell my daughter why…

Those Middle School Years Might Be Awkward, But Here’s What They’re Teaching Our Kids


It’s Reminding Them That They’re Not Alone

Middle school is so darn awkward. It’s filled with greasy hair, smelly armpits, pimples, acne, and swinging hormones that are hard as heck to keep up with. It’s when our kids leave their old (young) selves behind and learn who this new kid is inside of them. It’s when they finally realize the opposite sex isn’t quite so bad and they suddenly have the urge to talk to them but they’re clueless and utterly clumsy about how to go about it.

But the good news is, middle school, however embarrassing and awkward as it may be, is teaching our kids that they’re not alone. Everyone is going through the same, crazy, unrelenting stage fumbling their way through it. And, even though they may feel alone at times, all they have to do is look around and they’re reminded… hey, I’m not the only one going through this.

It’s Teaching Them Resilience

You will fail in middle school. Maybe it’s a bad grade in algebra or being cut from the volleyball team or maybe not making the team at all. But you get up, you don’t give up, and you go back to school every day. You study harder, you get help and you get smarter. You shake off being cut from the team or that crummy (heartbreaking) tryout and you try something else. You fall down and you get back up, time and time again. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, some days you want to give up and move to another country. But you don’t. You become resilient.

It’s Teaching Them How to Resolve Conflict

Oh, the conflicts… far too many to count in middle school. Like that kid in class who always uses your pen without permission or that one kid who always cuts in front of you in the cafeteria line. Do you avoid or accommodate or cave into the situation? No… you learn how to handle it, one stumbling step at a time. Like it or not, those situations are teaching you valuable lessons.

Each day provides an opportunity to work on communicating your side of the story, to stand up for yourself, and look at the other person’s side empathetically. The conflict may not resolve itself every time, but that’s okay because the chance to learn and grow from it is there. And, those are skills that will carry you through life. 

Note: bullying is a form of conflict that is never okay. You should always talk to your parent, a teacher, or a trusted adult about bullying and be involved with your school to create and promote a safe environment for everyone.

It’s Helping Them Realize That They Have to Accept Themselves First

I still remember when a boy made fun of my butt in 8th grade, taunting me that it was flat compared to the other girls. But the truth? My less-than-curvaceous derriere didn’t bother me. It still doesn’t, even in a Kim Kardashian world.

Middle school might shake your confidence to the core, but somewhere along the way you learn to accept yourself.

You eventually figure out the reality that no one is perfect. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, everyone has flaws, and even though you may have qualities or characteristics that are different from everyone else, they’re all yours and that’s what makes them (and YOU) special and unique. Middle school is when you begin to realize that you get to decide what you like or accept about yourself, regardless of what others think.

It’s Bringing to Light What a True Friend Looks Like

Like a fast-moving revolving door, middle school friendships can make you somewhat dizzy. One minute your bestie from elementary school is dropping you like a hot potato to hang with what she calls, “The cool group,” and the next you’re connecting with a new kid in your social studies class and they become your new bestie. 

You might have to brace yourself for a bumpy “friendship” ride, but that same rocky ride will teach you a thing or two about being a good friend. It will teach you what a good friend truly looks like, that you deserve friends that treat you well and encourage you rather than tear you down, and why you should take it in stride when certain friendships don’t weather the test of time. It’s all part of life and the invaluable lessons you need to face this world head-on. 

So as my daughter heads towards a new adventure in middle school, I will be there to remind her that the lessons and experiences of middle school, although they may be hard, uncomfortable, or downright awkward, will mold her, not crush her.

It will teach her to become resilient, embrace change, deal with conflict, and learn what makes a true friend. Mostly, it will help her to turn that confidence corner slowly and learn to accept and love herself just the way she is. 


About Katy M. Clark:

Katy is a writer and mom of two who embraces her imperfections on her blog Experienced Bad Mom. Follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.

If you enjoyed reading, “Middle School Might Suck, But Here’s What It’s Teaching Our Kids,” you might also like reading these posts!

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