How Parents Can Help Middle Schoolers Build Confidence and Character | Deborah Farmer Kris | 1 Min Read

August 4, 2021

For many adults, the words “middle school,” evoke a negative, gut-level response. These reactions are grounded in our own potent memories from that time, says Phyllis Fagell, a school counselor, psychotherapist and author of Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond – and How Parents Can Help. 

“Middle schoolers experience every feeling as a polarity,” says Fagell, “and we are wired to remember the negative.” So our own memories of being rejected by a friend or embarrassed by a teacher have an outsized place in our long-term memory. “And you are bringing all of that to the table as your child approaches middle school.” 

When it comes to how we talk about and interact with middle schoolers, we need a new mindset, says Fagell. “Rather than looking at this phase with dread, see it as an opportunity to share your values and solidify your relationship with your children.”  

The Magic of Middle School

Fagel, who has spent much of her career working with middle school students, describes these years as a magical time in child development. “These kids are such a mix of intellectual capacity, malleability, and…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (