A youth may leave fifth grade feeling like they are one of the ‘big kids’, only to find that in middle school they are one of the ‘little kids’ once again. There is a huge difference in maturity, ability and need between an eleven year old and a fourteen year old adolescent in middle school. The youth in early adolescence is still a child in many ways. They enter sixth grade with expectations and excitement to find out more about themselves and the world around them. They can be insecure, but brave. They can be moody and inconsistent. They can waver back and forth between wanting childhood and independence. Their relationship with their friends is extremely important. They still need their parents love and guidance.
In school, academic subjects are more demanding, and they are exposed to more teachers with different teaching styles and personalities. They have an increased ability for complex thought and abstract thinking. They have to learn to manage their time and balance academics with social activities and sports. They need to stay current with their peers on facebook and know all about popular culture – music, tv, sports, etc. Many of these youth have very little “down time” to just relax.
Studies have shown that bullying and harassment are at their peak in middle school. Experimentation with tobacco, alcohol and drugs that starts in middle school is often more difficult to stop than that started in later adolescence. Some of the issues a typical middle school student deals with today are: anger management, anxiety, depression, peer pressure, their emerging sexuality, materialistic and social competition, concern about their physical appearance, parent financial troubles, divorce, bereavement, pressure to succeed academically and at sports.