As a middle school gifted teacher, I have seen it all.  Most students enter middle school in 6th grade and never miss a stride.  However, others enter and find themselves overwhelmed with the changes from their sheltered elementary school experience.   One of the biggest challenges can be navigating the tumultuous social scene.   Middle-schoolers are often  trying to define their role within their new school, and establish which social groups they belong to and many times that can lead to exclusive and less than desirible social behaviors.  Watching your child suffer because of bullying or social alienation can be a difficult thing, but there are some things you can do to help.

1) Become involved with extra- curricular activities.  Extra-curricular activities provide an opportunity for your child to interact with peers who have similar interests.  Contact your school office and see what extra curricular activities they will be offering and begin making plans to participate in one.

 2. Remind your child that he is not alone in his insecurities or his desire to belong.
 Perhaps you have a story you can share where you have experienced the same thing.  Sharing these experiences will validate your child's feelings, and at the same time show him that these feelings are normal.  

3. It is important for you to listen and sympathize without always trying to fix your child’s problems.  "Momma Bear" sometimes takes over and we want to solve our children's problems for them.  However,  a
dolescents often want to solve their own problems and developing the strategies to handle these awkward social situations is beneficial, but if your child knows that he can come to you for guidance and support, it will make him much more likely to share.  However, also know if your child is experiencing any form of physical bullying or mental abuse that is outside the realm of normal adolescent behavior, you should make your child's teacher aware of what is going on. 
4.  Role play situations with your child on how to act in certain social situations.  Sometimes teens just don't know what is expected of them in certain social situations.  Teach your child how to be friendly. Small gestures like offering a smile, offering a compliment or volunteering to work together can be the start of a friendship.
5.  If your child has specific friends he would like to spend time with, arrange an afternoon adventure.  Invite the student over, take them to a part or playground.  Provide opportunities for your child to have social experiences outside of school.  Friendships are built around shared experiences, and at school often there are too many peers interacting in a group to form these bonds.  Provide opportunities for your child to interact in small groups and friendships will likely develop.

6.  Know your child.  Some middleschool aged children prefer to be alone.  They work well in school with others and never have arguments or disagreements, but they just prefer to spend time alone, with family or with neighbors outside of school.  This is a personality type and is okay.  Encourage him to invite friends over, but do not be alarmed or worried for him if he chooses not to.  

7. Develop a strong relationship with your child's teachers. Teachers are with your child for 8 hours a day and can often offer insight into social issues you might be concerned about.  Do not be afraid to approach a teacher if you are concerned. 

7/26/2013 09:07:48 am

Thank you for this very important advice... My child starts middle schol this year and she will be in gifted courses as well... I look forward to reading your posts

7/31/2013 09:15:18 am

I appreciate this so much. My son starts middle school next week!

7/31/2013 05:13:04 pm

My child goes back to school next month. These are helpful hints some I have tried before.

8/16/2013 06:29:14 am

Good morning! I found your blog in a comment on another blog. My son is a gifted middle school student (exceptionally so) I appreciate your post because he is also incredibly socially awkward and doesn't even realize it.


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