What do Middle Schoolers Worry About?

What do Middle Schoolers Worry About? What do Their Parents Worry About?

According to Dr. Devin Leman in his book Planet Middle School, here’s what middle-schoolers say they worry about:

“Embarrassing myself at school because I do something dumb.”

“If the group I hang out with would still like me if they knew the real me.”

“That my teacher will post by bad grade in front of everybody.”

“Getting teased at school because I’m different.”

“Being singled out and having kids share at me.”

“My parents embarrassing me in front of my friends.”

Notice that each statement has to do with how they appear in front of a peer. 

Here’s what parents of middle-schoolers say they worry about:

“That I caught him lying about where he was after school, and I don’t know how to confront him without him blowing a fuse.”

“That he’ll get into drugs or drinking.”

That she’ll get talked into having sex or get pregnant.

That he’ll be influenced by the wrong group.

That my child might get mad at me and run away.

That he’s a loner and can’t seem to make friends.

That she gets teased about her weight.

That he’s not safe on the way to school, at school, and after school (so many school shootings these days).

That she doesn’t get that how she dresses attracts the wrong kind of boys.

That he acts depressed, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Dr. Devin Leman is an internationally renowned psychologist and New York Times Bestselling Author of more than 30 books.

Struggles That Make Kids Stronger


Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, author, and speaker, based in Princeton, NJ recently posted an excellent piece in Psychology Today about  how kids learn resilience by overcoming ordinary suffering:

“It’s natural for us parents to want to protect our children from pain and suffering, but if we rush to rescue children from problems that they could solve on their own, we prevent them from learning how to cope. Well-intentioned comments like, “Here, let me do it,” “I’ll talk to the teacher for you,” or “I’ll take care of it,” tell children, “You can’t handle this.”

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to allow them to struggle. This helps our children develop important life skills, and it also shows our faith in their ability to grow and learn.

Here are five character-building struggles that our kids can and should handle on their own. We can help by asking relevant questions or expressing support and understanding, but the solutions for these problems need to come from children themselves.”

The full article can be read here.


Would You Rather Communicate Only With an Etch-a-Sketch or a Lite Brite?


Busy schedules of both parents and children make it harder to have “family dinners.” But families may not be aware of the benefits that come with regularly eating together at the table.

Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. Family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school.


Eating dinner together as a family provides the opportunity for conversation. This lets parents teach healthy communication without distractions from smart phones, television, computers, and mobile devices.

By engaging your children in conversation, you teach them how to listen and provide them with a chance to express their own opinions. This allows your children to have an active voice within the family.

Conversations at the dinner table expand the vocabulary and reading ability of children, regardless of socioeconomic status. Family dinners allow every family member to discuss his or her day and share any exciting news.

Use these tips to encourage conversation:

  • Let all family members talk. Be an active listener and be sure your child learns to listen as well.
  • Encourage your child to participate. Do not underestimate your child’s ability to hold a conversation.
  • Discuss the child’s day. Express an interest in your child’s daily life.
  • Discuss current events. Bring up news that’s appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Conversation starter questions:
      • What was the best part of your day?
      • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
      • If you could be a famous person for a week, who would you be and why?
      • If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
      • If you had one wish (and you can’t wish for more wishes), what would you wish for and why?
      • 50 Family Dinner Conversation Starters
  • Kids love a round or two of “Would You Rather.”
      • Would you rather drive a beautiful, sleek sports car that was unreliable OR an ugly, dented, rust-covered beater that never broke down?
      • Would you rather never eat your favorite five foods again or ONLY eat your favorite five foods for the rest of your life?
      • Would you rather communicate only with an Etch-a-Sketch or a Lite Brite?
      • 100 Would You Rather Questions for Kids

All Kids Need Specific Assets in Their Lives


All kids need specific assets in their lives – not financial assets, but Developmental Assets such as family support, a caring school and self-esteem.  The more assets young people have, the more likely they are to lead successful, healthy lives.

For more than 50 years, Search Institute® has been a leader and partner for organizations around the world in discovering what kids need to succeed. Their research, resources, and expertise help partners in organizations, schools, and community coalitions solve critical challenges in the lives of young people.  The Search Institute has identified building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets—that help young children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.  Developmental Assets® are positive factors within young people, families, communities, schools, and other settings that research has found to be important in promoting the healthy development of young people.

Today I’d like to focus on Asset #8 of the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, Youth as Resources, and offer some suggestions on how to build these assets at home and in the community. (This particular list is intended for adolescents, age 12-18)

Asset #8 Youth as Resources – Young people are given useful roles in the community.

  • Involve your children in family decisions.  Ask for their input and advice.  Take their interests, talents and opinions seriously.
  • Hold family meetings. For example, one meeting can focus on discussing which kinds of tasks each household member is best at and enjoys the most. Then, review everyone’s current chores and make changes based on each other’s skills and interests.
  • Ask your children to help you plan family reunions, family outings, or neighborhood gatherings.  For family events, young people can help plan menus and cook, or plan games and activities for younger children; for vacations, they can research destinations and activities.
  • Provide your children with age appropriate roles that contribute to your family’s well-being.  For example – planning and preparing meals, doing meaningful chores, helping younger siblings with homework, helping adults with significant tasks.  Remind them often that their roles are important to the family as a whole.
  • Instead of only buying gifts for birthdays and holidays, commission your children to make some gifts.
  • Use some of your home projects as teaching opportunities.  For example, with your child, build a birdhouse, fix a bike, paint a room, or plant a garden.
  • Ask your child to teach you something – current slang, a hobby, how to play a video game or to share their favorite music or YouTube videos with you. It’s empowering to be able to introduce adults to something that they don’t already know.
  • Talk with your kids about their talents and abilities.  What do they think they’re good at?  What do you think they’re good at?  Together, come up with ways they can share their gifts with others.
  • Encourage youth to mentor their peers.  Teach them how they can help other youth by listening to them and helping them work through their problems.




Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.

For more on this topic, see Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to do Great Things by Kelly Curtis


Benson, Peter L., Judy Galbraith, and Pamela Espeland. What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Pub., 1998. Print.