10 Ways Moms Can Bond With Middle School Daughters

Know when and how to communicate


Published:

Photo courtesy of Comodigit/Shutterstock.com

Middle school can be an exciting time for a girl. New friends, new school, new body, new crushes. Your baby is growing up — and that’s a good thing! But it’s not always smooth or easy. As she straddles childhood and teenage years, it’s hard for Mom to know where she fits in or what her new role is in parenting. As you navigate this new emotional territory, it’s important to give your daughter some leeway. Allow her to grow — and even make mistakes.

However, as I tell mother/daughter pairs in my Right in the Middle workshops, it’s not only important to keep the lines of communication open and to be willing to have the difficult conversations, but to know when and how to communicate. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Develop a “Botox Brow.” Beginning around fifth or sixth grade, your daughter will start to assume you’re angry with her, even when you’re not. A teen’s brain uses the amygdala (the brain’s emotional center) to read people’s facial expressions, whereas an adult brain uses the more rational prefrontal cortex. The amygdala often misinterprets facial expressions. To avoid miscommunication during middle school, pretend you are a celebrity who has been over-Botoxed. In other words, if you keep a neutral expression when talking with your daughter, she’s less likely to think you’re angry and more willing to talk to you about sensitive matters.

2. Give each other space. Middle school requires resilience from mothers and daughters as they figure out who they are when they are apart from one another. Don’t freak out if your daughter pulls away from you, or if you find your daughter more aggravating than in the past. This is not an indication that you’ll spend future holidays apart, or end up not speaking to one another. It’s merely a normal part of growing up.

3. Encourage your daughter to try new things. As your daughter figures out who she is on her journey toward independence, she will want to explore lots of new things. Of course, you’ll be all for her trying new clubs, sports and foods. But she will also want to try out new fashions, friends and personality traits. This is all part of the process.

4. Maintain rituals and traditions. So much will be new for you and your girl that it will be comforting to root yourselves in customary routines and traditions. Don’t pass on your annual holiday viewing of “The Sound of Music” just because you think she has outgrown it. She may not admit it, but she’ll appreciate (even with an eye roll) knowing there is stability with you.

5. Never talk about clothes in the heat of the moment. Your daughter is adjusting to a new body, teen identity and confusing social trends. There will be many times she shows up for breakfast or emerges from a dressing room in something provocative or inappropriate. If you try to talk about it then and there, she will likely crumble. In a happy moment together, discuss some concrete guidelines for clothing. This should vary depending on the activity and company so she still has some space to experiment. You could say, for example, “You can wear ripped jeans to a birthday party, but not to your orchestra concert.”

6. Get a hobby. Just as your daughter is grappling with her emerging teen identity, you are likely pondering your own mid-life identity. There is no better time to dive into something outside of your family. Give some thought to what brings you joy that has nothing to do with your kids, then do it.

7. Negotiate and contract. Your daughter’s brain will be going through some amazing changes during middle school. One is the ability to begin thinking more hypothetically, instead of so concretely. This is when magical thinking will begin to get annoying. She will try to negotiate her way through all kinds of scenarios because, “maybe,” … “yeah, but,” … “it could.” Don’t resist her need to negotiate. Teach her how it’s done respectfully by engaging without emotional bias. Give her some small wins to build her trust and confidence in the process. She’ll be more likely to give you some, too. And after a good negotiation, write it down. A written contract will serve you both well as a reference point if things become heated in a misunderstanding later.

8. Become an assistant manager. Your daughter needs practice learning how to do the things that will make her a successful adult; such as managing time, keeping a calendar, cleaning up after herself, negotiating conflict and advocating for herself, for example. This is a long, messy process. Don’t expect success overnight. On average, adolescence now lasts about 14 years — from age 10-24 — according to a study published in January 2018 by The Lancet, a child and adolescent health journal. So give it time. Mostly, don’t try to micromanage your child or she will never learn. Allow her to try things, mess up and have an opportunity to fix it. Rinse and repeat.

9. Dust off the baby books. Things get very complicated for girls in middle school. Pull out your baby books and put them in a more central place in the house. From time to time, look at old photos or family videos together. Your daughter will relax seeing how loved and adorable she is in a time when she may be full of self-doubt.

10. Don’t get involved in the friend stuff. The best way to help your daughter navigate painful friendships is by being a good sounding board. Let her know you can listen without doing anything. Most girls just want to download their emotions onto someone they can trust, and then they can move on. Pretend you’re listening to a co-worker or friend. You wouldn’t call her boss or husband to report how she’s feeling. Just show her the power of being a nonjudgmental friend and listener.


Michelle Icard is the author of “Middle School Makeover: Improving The Way You and Your Child Experience The Middle School Years.” She hosts Right in the Middle, a conference for girls entering middle school and their moms. Her next event is at The Glenwood in Raleigh on April 28, 2019, and registration is open online. Sign up at michelleinthemiddle.com/mother-daughter-conference/about (click on “conference” then “dates”).



Photo of Michelle icard courtesy of Kate Weaver Photography

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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Cost: Free

Where:
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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
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View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Cost: See website for fees

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Cost: $15-$35

Where:
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Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Cost: 20

Where:
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Cost: Free

Where:
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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
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View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15-$35

Where:
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: USNWC
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View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Show More...
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Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
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View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
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View map »

More information

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Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
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Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

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Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

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Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

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Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.