Ages 11 - 13


Wasn’t this parenting thing supposed to get easier?

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Middle school can be messy. But it’s also exciting. Your in-betweener is navigating more complex situations on their own—in school and out. They’re figuring out who they are, getting ready for high school, and maybe even starting to think about what comes after that. And of course, dealing with all those hormones.

Here’s What’s Going On

The middle school years can be tough, but they’re also rich with opportunity. Your kid is becoming more fully who they are (and testing all the boundaries along the way). They’re building relationships independently from you, finding their passions, and thinking about big issues that affect their lives.

It might seem like there’s not a lot we can do for them now—especially since they don’t want to spend a lot of time with us anymore. But they still need us. Read on for strategies to help your tween navigate the demands of school, build their study and life skills, and think ahead to high school and beyond.

What to Focus On

Thinking & Learning

Reading, Writing, and Discussing Complex Topics

Elementary school is all about the building blocks of learning—reading, writing, and math. Middle school is where your kid really starts to put those building blocks to use. They’ll be asked to consider multiple points of view, ask bigger and tougher questions, and think more deeply about complex issues in the world, from climate change to immigration to technology.

Developing Media Literacy

Your child has likely been getting comfortable with technology for a few years now. But in middle school their exposure to the digital world will really take off. What kinds of skills should they develop during these years to navigate the on- and offline media around them?

Math Gets Real

Okay, now the math homework is really getting too hard for us to help with. Your middle school mathematician is delving deeper into geometry, building a foundation in algebra, and applying math to real-world situations. The equations might sound out there, but middle school math matters: mastering math now sets them up for success in high school—and even for earning their diploma and heading to college.

What’s Going On With Science and Social Studies?

In elementary school, it can feel like literacy and math are The Big Subjects, with science and social studies taking a back seat. But by middle school, your child should have both science and social studies as a consistent part of their school day. The curriculum can vary widely by school, but you can still expect your child to be learning a core set of skills in each subject.

How to Help Your Tween

3 Ways to Support Your Child’s Development at Home


Keep the lines of communication open. Your kid might not want to talk to you that much anymore. Keep bugging them anyway. Seek out conversations at unexpected times when they might have their guard down; for example, in the car (some parents find their tweens are more willing to talk when they’re not looking at each other face to face), or during an activity, like while you’re shooting hoops together or making dinner.


Think through a family technology plan. While you still have (some) influence over your children, consider crafting a family technology agreement together. In it, you’ll all agree to some boundaries around tech use in your home; for example, no phones at mealtimes, or an hour of downtime before bed, or whatever works in your family. If your kid has their own phone now, the agreement should include rules about its use and your level of access to what’s on it. (Spoiler alert: We recommend having full access to all your kid’s text, email, and social media communications at this age.) And if you’re thinking through the right time to give them a phone of their own, here are some things to consider.


Ask about their friends. In middle school, the sphere of influence shifts: You used to be your kid’s primary influence. Now it’s their friends. (Terrifying, right?) You won’t be able to choose their friends, but you can still get a sense of who they’re hanging out with. Ask about what they do when they’re together, what they talk about, and how your child feels about the friendships. When you can, get to know their friends’ families, too—it’ll give you a chance to make sure you’re comfortable with your child being in their home independently (here are some good tips for asking about firearms in the house.) The more you know, the more you’ll be able to guide your middle schooler toward positive relationships and away from negative ones. But above all, be cool. You’re going to have to do this stealthily.

It's time to

Consider Their Summer Options

Your tween might not be interested in summer camp, but that doesn't mean you want them hanging around your house all day come June. Fortunately, there are a lot of options for middle schoolers that fall somewhere between Being a Camper and Getting a Real Job. Many camps and summer activities offer "counselor in training" programs, where your tween can get some early work experience by helping out with younger campers. Bonus: These programs are usually either tuition-free or even offer a small stipend for your kid. Start with our guide to summer planning, grab a calendar, and go from there.

What’s Next For Your Child's School Journey


(Ages 14-18)

High school comin’ in hot.

The baby will be a high schooler before you know it. More independence, more agency over course selections, and more concrete thinking about college and career paths… It’s all getting pretty real.

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