Spring Conference to Focus on How Moms Can Help Daughters Survive — and Thrive — in Middle School

Expert panel offers advice on how mothers can help daughters make the transition


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Photo courtesy of Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Many parents look ahead to the middle school years with anxiety and trepidation. As children transition into tweens and then teens, parents watch their children exhibit mood swings, impulsivity and physical changes. For mothers and daughters, in particular, these years can consist of turbulent relationships if not handled in a positive and nurturing way. 

A spring mother-daughter conference titled "Right in the Middle" has been coordinated by "Middle School Makeover" author Michelle Icard that will take place Sunday, April 22, 2018, 1-4 p.m., in the Cannon Room of the Capital Club Building in Raleigh, which is located at 16 W. Martin Street in Raleigh. During this conference, mothers and their middle-school age daughters will hear and/or participate in the following presentations: 

  1. "The Middle School Identity" – presented by Michelle Icard
  2. ​"Media Matters" – presented by Stephanie Zerwas
  3. "Friends and Frenemies" breakout session for girls in attendance
  4. Expert panel Q&A with Michelle Icard and Lorelei Lindow
  5. Social Media Tips

Click here to register for the conference. 

As a prelude to this conference, host and panelist Icard offers answers to some of the questions many moms of current or soon-to-be middle school-aged daughters may have.


Q: According to many researchers, the most “stressful,” “loneliest” and “emptiest” time in a mom’s life is when her child goes to middle school. This is bleak news, but you literally wrote the book on how to makeover those awkward middle school years. What good news can you give us?

It’s true: Moms have it hardest when their kids go to middle school. (And we thought sleepless nights with infants were tough!) But I think middle school is an exciting, if sometimes awkward, time; and I think it’s important to reframe our expectations around middle school so we can all be happier. One thing I find fascinating is the changes kids undergo during early adolescence mirror the changes moms go through in middle age (bodies taking new shape, brain functions reorganizing, and even changes to our identity), so even if it’s confusing it’s also a time of huge opportunity.


Q: What big takeaway will moms learn at your conference? 

There are a few things I want every parent at my conference to walk away with. One is a common language and a plan with their daughters around how to handle it when a crisis comes up. Another is for mom and daughter to better understand where the other is coming from. So many misunderstandings could be avoided with this! And finally, every mom will leave knowing how to have better conversations with her daughter through these tricky years. There are things every mom does inadvertently that cause her daughter to shut down, and a few tweaks every mom can make that will help her daughter stay open. Learning this is a game changer.


Q: And what about the middle schoolers themselves? Is there usually one or two “a-ha” moments that most girls have? 

I’ve been hosting this conference multiple times a year, in multiple cities for five years, and the same thing happens at every conference. The girls come in with defensive body language, and I know they’re thinking, “I don’t know why my mom is making me do this.” But by the end of the three hours together, girls are crawling into their moms laps, resting heads on shoulders and playing with their mom’s hair. It’s such a fun transformation to watch play out. I think for them, the "a-ha" moments come when their moms are more humanized through some middle school memory moments as well as a fun quiz they team up for (I don’t want to ruin the surprise!).


Q: What one piece of advice do you think middle school daughters want moms to know? 

I think for every girl it’s different, and the beauty of the conference is that it opens the lines of communication for girls to share with their mom. At one point, we have a breakout and the girls go with high school interns to talk about what they wish their moms would and would not do when the daughter is facing a friendship issue. The moms stay with me for a private Q&A. When we reconvene, the interns share the feedback from the girls and the moms are always surprised and educated! Sometimes, just asking your daughter, how do you want me to handle this can be eye-opening.


Q: This will be your third year doing the conference in Raleigh. Will there be any special guests this year? 

This year, I’ll be teaming up again with Stephanie Zerwas, an associate professor and body acceptance expert from the University of North Carolina. She does a segment on talking through the ups and downs of body image, including the pitfalls of comparing ourselves to others, especially online. I’ll also have local psychologist Lorelei Lindow share the panel with me when answering private questions from moms. This happens when the girls are in their breakout and questions might range from, “How can I help my quiet daughter make more friends” to “How can I help my friend-driven daughter realize she is the company she keeps” to “How do I make my daughter wear deodorant?”

But the other stars of the show are our high school interns. I bring in about eight incredibly talented high school girls to help run the event. In addition to being great hosts, they share tips throughout the event about their middle school experiences and what they wish they’d known back then. For the girls in the audience this adds a lot of interest and credibility to our messages.


Michelle Icard is hosting and serving as a panelist at the "Right in the Middle" conference in Raleigh.


Learn more about the presenters and the conference here

Photos provided by Right in the Middle conference.

 

 
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