On May 18th, the Wall Street Journal released an article titled
“Middle-School Years Are the Toughest Time for Moms”. According to recent research studies, mothers tend to feel the most anxious
and unsure of their parenting abilities when their children are at the
middle-school age. The study was conducted with feedback from over 2,200
different mothers and showed that moms with children between the ages
of 11 and 14 were more likely to be fraught with
depression, anxiety, stress, and self-doubt. Researchers, who believed they would find the same levels of anxiety
in mothers of infants due to physical exhaustion that occurs during this
stage, were surprised to find that mothers with babies or grown children
are actually the happiest on the spectrum.
Why Are Middle-School Moms Suffering?
There are many believed factors that impact these results. One being that
middle-school is a time of change, and not just for the child. Yes, during
this time our children are experiencing a lot of physical and emotional
changes, namely puberty, mood swings, and the desire for more independence.
Mothers report feeling isolated and disconnected from their children during
this stage of development, and part of the reason is because their children
are expressing more independence or withdrawing from the family. Mothers
of infants are undergoing similar levels of stress, but, unlike mothers
of middle-school children, these mothers can still receive the fulfillment
obtained by holding their baby in their arms. It appears as if middle-school
moms are experiencing stress, but with no rewards or benefits. It is this
lack of positive reinforcement that applies isolation and insecurity to
their stress levels.
Another contributing factor is that middle-school mothers are emotionally
more isolated. As children grow and leave their elementary schools behind
for larger middle schools, so goes the time that parents could gather
together and talk. Many of the friendships that mothers established with
other parents begin to dwindle. Mothers no longer are able to talk about
parenting with other mothers or share insecurities that they may have
about their own parenting. Not only do they see their children withdrawing
from them, but they have no one to confide in about their insecurities.
Because of this, many mothers feel as if they are not “effectively
or appropriately” reaching out to their children.
How You Can Help Yourself
The article states that the best way for a mother to help herself if she
is feeling down or alone is to be proactive. Being proactive doesn’t
mean pushing for more responses from your children, in fact it could mean
the opposite. Being proactive, in this case, simply means engaging and
searching for solutions to the problems you face.
Here are some tips on how you can be a proactive parent:
Find a support group: You aren’t the only parent that feels alone or that they are struggling.
Find a forum or group for parents of kids the same age as your children.
It may be surprising (if not a relief) to hear that many of them will
share the same uncertainties and insecurities you are facing.
Can’t find a group? Create one: You may not have the accessibility of an already-created elementary school
PTA, but you can be the one that creates a new network of parents, either
at your child’s new school, at your church, or another kind of organization
you participate in.
Adapt your parenting methods: Does it feel like your current methods are only driving your pre-teen
away? Find new parenting tools and implement them. Try stepping back,
giving your child the independence they are thirsting for, and let them
make a couple of decisions for themselves. You may just see positive results!
For tips on parenting or help assisting your children through a divorce
contact the Center for Mediated Divorce. Our experienced
Irvine divorce attorney has helped many parents through the difficult process of divorce.