Spent a little one-on-one with my girl today talking through the topic of change and transition which is just flat out hard no matter what kind of disposition your child has in middle school. Maddox breaks it down for us and gets real like only a near-13-year-old can for our first edition of Teen Talk Tuesday. Our collective hope is that both adolescents and parents would leave our conversation with something to chew on.
What is your name, age and grade?
Maddox Olivia Crouch, age 12, and 6th grade. Wait, no, 7th grade. (laughs)
This has been a big year of transition for you. Tell me about that.
Well, I transitioned from a private school to a public school and it was really hard because I didn’t have ANY friends at first. It was hard because the private school was small, there weren’t many friend groups, you were kind of friends with everybody. There weren’t people who felt left out. The public school was the opposite. There are a bunch of different groups and people do get left out. Not everybody has friends and you aren’t going to be friends with everybody. I guess it was really hard for me this year because I feel like I’m not great at making friends with people and also I was the only one coming to middle school from my school, so nobody knew me. This year, I had people walk out of my friend groups and it hurt to let go of them.
In private school, we had uniforms so everybody fit in. But in public, you don’t have school uniforms and you find that if you don’t dress the way other people are dressing, you don’t fit in. And you want to fit in, because otherwise it’s weird and people don’t like when you don’t fit in. I know what I want to wear, but I feel like people don’t want me to wear that so I don’t. It’s kinda peer pressure, you know?
The transitions you’ve experienced this year may be more obvious than others your age, but tweens & teens’ lives are marked by change. How do they deal with it?
Honestly, people my age don’t act like stuff is changing. They act like nothing is happening and that makes people feel like they can’t say when something’s wrong. I don’t know, but a lot of people this age seem mad or rude, and they think that being mad or being rude is a personality trait and it’s not. They fish for compliments too; they’ll say things like “I’m so dumb,” or “I’m so ugly” so people will make them feel better. So instead of actually saying how they feel about being this age and how much things are changing, they just ask for people to validate them. I don’t know how to explain it. Some people seem happy with the changes, and act like everything’s perfect.
When you think of your life in the future, what do you see? How is what you’re experiencing now preparing you for your future self?
Um, I guess I see myself graduating college and doing something I love. I see myself having a small group of friends and I see myself still being friends with some of the same people I’m friends with now. I guess the way my life could be impacted later by what I’m doing now is the kind of education I’m getting and how seriously I’m taking it, what types of friendships I’m forming, and what I like to do in my spare time. That kind of stuff.
How do you wish other kids your age would handle change differently, and what do you wish parents knew about this age?
Everybody deals with change in their own way, but I guess the kids I’m thinking about act like everything’s fine when it’s not, and hold it all in. I do the same kind of stuff, honestly. I wish that kids would open up more to someone they trust instead of keeping it all inside.
What I wish parents would know—I don’t know—ask your kids about their day, ask them how it’s going. But don’t ask them too many questions, because honestly that’s the most annoying thing ever. And there’s not much a parent can do about it either if your kid is having a hard time. I’ve learned that this year. Like, if I’ve had a bad day, there’s really nothing you can do to make that better for me. It’s not like it used to be when I was younger. Just kind of slowly let your child open up to you instead of you forcing the conversation. Listen to your kid. That’s kind of it.
Mom Takeaways: Middle school is freaking hard, y’all. Get vulnerable with your child. Tell your own story. Fill in the gaps with what you know now. Don’t try to fix everything. Sit in the tension with them. Listen hard and be available when they’re ready to talk.