Middle School — Developments in the Peer Group

[ By on December 03, 2012 ]

From: The Successful Parent Website

Post: Beginning Middle School (link to entire post)
Developments in the Peer Group

Most sixth graders are eleven or twelve years old, which means that they will begin to show signs of early adolescence during the coming year. One of the most significant developments during early adolescence is a new interest in the peer group. The sixth grade peer group, like the fifth grade group, still consists primarily of same sex members. What’s new is that there is a growing and deeper involvement in the group that facilitates a psychological shift away from the family and toward the peer group as the main source of self-esteem and identity. Moreover, this new interest in the peer group coincides with the initial stages of puberty, which brings with it major physical changes in appearance that are more akin to adulthood than childhood. In sixth grade, this whole process gets underway, but occurs very unevenly. There is probably no other period in the life of a child where development proceeds at such a fast pace and at such different rates for each individual. The effect of all of this is that the groupings and friendships that were intact at the end of elementary school begin to give way in accordance with the different rates of movement into adolescence. Not only are these youngsters subjected to surging hormones and a rapidly changing appearance, but sixth and seventh graders seem to undergo a good deal of emotional upheaval as peer relationships fall apart, reform, fall apart again, and so forth. These young pre-teens are beginning to measure themselves against the peer group, and the peer group at this point is very unstable and fickle.

What parents need to keep in mind is that the daily emotional ups and downs are normal and will continue for most of middle school until everyone catches up with each other. What parents can do is remain available with a sympathetic ear, while also supplying the voice of reason in assisting these young folks through the mire of evolving peer groups. Allow a lot of conversation so that you have an intimate awareness of what your youngster is feeling and thinking, especially in terms of self-image. Secondly, remember that early adolescence also signals the development of hypothetical thinking. This is a good time to engage your youngster in abstract conversations, especially around issues of morality. The peer group serves as a kind of human lab for formulating values and examining different kinds of behavior. As parents you can help your young teen make use of his current experiences to enhance his capacity for high level thinking as well as further develop empathy for himself and others. Last, it is important to keep close tabs on the evolving peer group so that you can spot dangerous liaisons before they solidify. In other words, know your young teen’s friends.

Excerpts from http://www.thesuccessfulparent.com/education/beginning-middle-school

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