The past is the past, the future is still so far away, and the present moment is all that seems to matter. Feelings of “who cares?” run wild, tears are shed, doors are slammed, and drama ensues. The “who is going?” crowd mentality has determined that the best place to be is wherever everyone else is going. An innate “who do I want to be?” breathes possibilities for self-discovery into every moment.
This very moment commands all levels of focus. Almost always, pre-teens give almost all concentration to the present. Mom can be the voice of reason, reminding that today’s choices impact tomorrow’s reality.
The desire for peer approval tends to drive attitudes and behaviors more than any other factor. Increasingly able to see things from other people’s points-of-view, levels of cognitive growth during Junior High are off the charts! Children start to recognize more abstract concerns such as social justice, climate change, and war, while learning to differentiate a person’s actions from their motives. Unfortunate but true, it is not uncommon for ten to twelve-year old kids to mask their true feelings to “fit in.”
Children in junior high tend to struggle with time management and organization. For the first time in the lives, they are largely responsible for themselves. Overconfidently preoccupied with their own perceived abilities, children in junior high often overlook the true value of hard work and effort. Debate strategy is driven more by emotion than logic. When poor decision-making skills intersect with a tendency to negotiate the rules, terrible behavior can manifest at home—particularly with mom.
Girls begin outpacing boys developmentally, and are characterized as happy, silly, and loud. They may frequently change friends to reflect continuously changing interests. Body odor, body hair, and breasts start to develop; menstruation is either already happening or is on the horizon. The opinions of other people matter more than ever before. Self-doubt may start to undermine self-confidence. Concerns over personal appearance become paramount. Romantic interests may lead to experimenting with physical affection.
For girls and boys, mood swings accompany puberty as children begin the process of transforming into adults. Acne and other skin-related issues may start to appear. Boys commonly try on different identities as they discover who they are going to be—curiosities evolve into trying new things. By the time they become teenagers, they have embarked on a mission for freedom from their parents and all childlike things.
Middle school means an entirely new social construct: lockers, walking the halls from classroom to classroom, and considering the “dating scene.” With increased social and self-awareness, our children are asking themselves, “Who do I like?” and “Who likes me?” and need to feel seen, heard, and accepted. As mothers, affirming their personal journey communicates “What matters to you matters to me,” and “I will always love you no matter what.”
Heightened self-awareness brings long accepted values into question. The realization that no one is exactly alike can be both exhilarating and unnerving. Not everyone makes the team, and that’s ok. Work and chores instill responsibility. Completing homework on their own, vacuuming the family vehicle, walking the dog, laundry, dishes, and trash duty are all very reasonable and appropriate chores.
Junior highschoolers need a TON of food and nine to eleven hours of sleep each night. With established daily routines, children should be able to manage their changing body and maintain good hygiene. Schedule an annual physical. Affirm they are washing with soap and shampoo and eat together whenever possible. Some healthy habits happen naturally, sometimes it’s up to mom to normalize certain activities… like playing outside. Kids often forget to stay hydrated; remind them of the importance of drinking water.
Mothers Truly Matter
When children are in junior high school, we get less time with them; make the time we do have count. Be intentional; emotions are heightened, puberty is accompanied by huffing, puffing, and eye-rolling. These “bad attitudes” can undermine the flow of their daily lives; be diligent in raising attitudinal awareness and start each day with love and encouragement. As we travel between activities, interpret life with informal conversations. When we have dinner in the evening, listen and reinforce healthy values. When tucking them in at night, be emotionally available, mindful in case they need a listening ear.
As sexual desires are awakened, kids start feeling like they know better than adults. Regardless, mothers should be a safe place for children to ask questions about sex, dating, and their changing bodies. We need to teach the importance of guarding potential for intimacy through appropriate boundaries and mutual respect. These discussions can be awkward—take extra precautions to not embarrass them about their body or their curiosity. Always finish the conversation with room to pick it back up again another time.
Appropriate use of technology lets children strengthen online social circles and expand research capabilities. Studies show that most American children tend to receive their first smartphone between ten and twelve years old. Deciding whether they use our phone or their own is only the beginning of the conversation. It is so important that healthy parameters are in place to prevent excessive screen time. Whatever the guidelines, make them clear and be consistent with their enforcement.
In junior high school, children need consistent, positive friends and mentors more than ever before. Remain engaged in their personal faith journey with intentional conversations, saying things like, “Can we pray about this together?” and “How can we be the light we want to see in the world?”
Throughout Junior High, uncertainty gives way to self-confidence as younger mindsets shift from “I need help” to “I got this.” Not that they’ll eagerly admit it, but they still care a lot about what we think. They’re becoming more independent, expressing themselves in ways that reflect their budding individuality. As they encounter lots of new feelings and experiences, mom best provides support, guidance, and reassurance by being present and available.
Excellent Reading for Sixth Graders
This classic novel is a tale of courage and faith—and the love of a dog—that give a family strength in the face of inhumanity.
Is eternal life a blessing or a curse? That is what young Winnie Foster must decide when she discovers a spring on her family’s property whose waters grant immortality. Members of the Tuck family, having drunk from the spring, tell Winnie of their experiences watching life go by and never growing older.
The gentle mice have gathered to celebrate a year of peace and abundance. All is well… until a sinister shadow falls across the ancient stone abbey of Redwall.
Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, Auggie wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Beginning from Auggie’s point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, the perspectives converge to form a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. In a world where bullying has become an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.
After sixth grade, the very worst year of his life, Rafe Khatchadorian thinks he has it made in seventh grade. He’s been accepted to art school in the big city and imagines a math-and-history-free fun zone. Wrong! It’s more competitive than Rafe ever expected, and to score big in class, he needs to find a way to turn his boring life into the inspiration for a work of art.
Lizzie and Karl’s family has become attached to an elephant named Marlene, who will be destroyed by the zoo so she and the other animals don’t run wild should the zoo be hit by bombs. The family persuades the zoo director to let Marlene stay in their garden. When the city is bombed, the family flees with thousands of others, but how can they walk the same route with an elephant in tow, and keep themselves safe?
As battles rage up and down the Eastern seaboard, Isabel, Curzon, and Ruth flee, separate, fight, face unparalleled heartbreak and, just like war, they must depend on their allies—and each other—if they are to survive. Which leads to a second, harrowing question: Amidst so much pain and destruction, can they even recognize who their allies are?
It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him…
New York Times bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein takes readers behind the scenes at the World Series in this exciting baseball mystery.
A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo’s life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can’t talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better — playing the piano — is impossible with her wounded hands. To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma — and in the surprising landscape of her own heart.
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal — a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out at sea.
Excellent Reading for Seventh Graders
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge–with dangerous consequences.
“The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood. Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
What can you do when life gives you a second chance? Restart is the spectacular story of a kid with a messy past who has to figure out what it means to get a clean start.
In this Newbery Medal–winning novel, a girl faces prejudice and accusations of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Connecticut. A classic of historical fiction that continues to resonate across the generations.
She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, this is a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill of first love.
Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he’s finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own—Old Dan and Little Ann—he’s ecstatic. Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. But tragedy awaits these hunters—now friends—and Billy learns that hope can grow out of despair, and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past.
Designated birthmothers produce newchildren, who are assigned to appropriate family units. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. Everyone is the same. Except Jonas. Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.
“The Outsiders transformed young-adult fiction from a genre mostly about prom queens, football players and high school crushes to one that portrayed a darker, truer world.” —The New York Times
When fifteen-year-old Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power, his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. The legend: Nicholas Flamel discovered the secret of eternal life.
Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn’t made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for eight years, he decides to run–and not just run away, but run. Maniac Magee begins to change lives in a racially divided town with amazing and legendary feats.
One of the best-loved adventure stories ever written, Treasure Island is a timeless tale of pirates, lost treasure maps, mutiny and derring-do — a coming-of-age story that will forever captivate both adults and children.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.
Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and though her bullying seems isolated at first, it quickly escalates. Toby, a reclusive World War I veteran, soon becomes the target of Betty’s attacks. While others see Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. As tensions mount, Annabelle must find the courage to stand as a lone voice for justice.
Excellent Reading for Eighth Graders
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy growing up during World War II. As a nine-year-old, Bruno lived in his own world of imagination. He enjoyed reading adventure stories and going on expeditions to explore the lesser-known corners of his family’s massive house in Berlin. Bruno’s father is the commandant of Auschwitz and Bruno’s befriends a Jewish detainee named Shmuel.
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. His skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers, Ender suffers from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders.
Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous–and extremely high-tech–fairies. He kidnaps one of them, Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family’s fortune. But he may have underestimated the fairies’ powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?
Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium-a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster-except for El Patrón. As Matteo struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive…
A true account of life on a plantation in Kenya. With classic simplicity, Isak Dinesen depicts the ways of the country and the natives, of the beauty of the Ngong Hills, of the coffee trees in blossom, of the primitive festivals, of her animal neighbors–lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes–and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful.
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
A little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to tell them: They’re going to die today. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
The stories of Jim, an orphaned boy, and Ántonia, the elder daughter in a family of Bohemian immigrants. Each brought to Nebraska as pioneers towards the end of the 19th century. The first year in this very new place leaves strong impressions in both children, affecting them for the rest of their lives.
The extraordinary, ground breaking bestsellers The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, are available in a beautiful boxset edition. Stunning, gripping, and powerful… the trilogy is now complete!
Charlie Gordon was born with an unusually low IQ. He has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence-a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon. As the treatment takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?
The domesticated life of a powerful St. Bernard-Shepherd mix named Buck is quickly turned on end when he is stolen away from his master and put to work as a sled dog in Alaska. His once life of luxury turns into a life of survival as he learns the ways of the wilderness. Set in the Klondike region of Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, The Call of the Wild showcases the transformation of a canine as he learns to adapt to what life has given him, fair or not.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, even though she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, igniting the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and word is that Steve served as the lookout. Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of “the system,” cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn on anyone to shorten their own sentences. Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend the rest of his life.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community and endanger her life.
Crow has always been curious, about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Vivid and heart-wrenching, Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post was inspired by Kristen Ivy and Reggie Joiner’s Parenting Your Sixth Grader, Parenting Your Seventh Grader, and Parenting Your Eighth Grader available on www.parentcuestore.org and should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.