Middle School

Middle school children have some unique social challenges, and as they pull away from parental and family influences, they may be particularly vulnerable to social challenges like dealing with cliques, being socially isolated, and learning the ever-changing rules of social networking. Children who have not mastered the social skills expected of them at an earlier age, will have compounded problems as they navigate the difficult waters of becoming a teenager.

Anger

Anger

Problems with anger management can be very detrimental to a child’s social development. No one likes to be with someone who is angry all of the time, or someone who expresses anger in inappropriate ways.

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Anxiety and Shyness

Anxiety

Social anxiety is common among children and can begin at any age. The social world in middle school can be very intimidating. While shyness is fairly common, children who are anxious about their social interactions tend to have problems as they grow older, and the anxiety they experience can make life very hard.

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Apologizing

Apologizing

Apologizing in a sincere and appropriate way is a social skill that is necessary throughout one’s lifetime. If not learned in childhood, the lack of this skill may make many relationships unnecessarily difficult.

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Appearance

Appearance

Many children don’t realize how much their appearance affects their social acceptance. They may think that wearing the right sneakers or jeans is important to social acceptance, but in fact children judge each other on a much deeper level, paying more attention to what is different about other children than what is the same.

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Bullying and Teasing

Bullies

Bullying and teasing can take many forms, but it is always hurtful and sometimes extremely disruptive to a child’s development. While it is present in school children of all ages, bullying and teasing tends to peak during the middle school years.

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Classroom Behavior

Classroom Behavior

Most children spend a great deal of their time in school classrooms. They are apt to be judged by their peers according to the way the act in these settings.

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Compassion and Caring

Compassion and Caring

While some children seem to be naturally compassionate throughout their development, many others can seem indifferent to their classmates and even mean. These behaviors can become more prevalent with the added social pressures of middle school.

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Compliments

Compliments

Giving and receiving compliments can be more difficult for kids than most adults realize. If children are having difficulty in reading social cues they may find it hard to know when to say the right thing or how to say it.

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Conversation Skills

Conversation Skills

Carrying on a conversation is like a dance, requiring a good sense of timing and the ability to both lead and follow. If you observe a group of children in a school cafeteria, you can tell in a minute which children are more “popular” with their peers, almost all of the time it will be the children with good conversational skills.

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Cooperation and Compromise

Compromise

Cooperation involves listening to what others are saying, understanding the benefits of sharing, and becoming comfortable with taking turns. In many situations, working together means coming up with an acceptable compromise.

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Dating

Dating

Beginning to date is anxiety producing for most teenagers, and for the parents of teens as well. Middle school children must now begin to negotiate relationships with peers as well as members of the opposite sex.

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Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and Alcohol

Unfortunately drugs and alcohol is an important part of the social interactions for many middle school students. For others, middle school is the ideal time to give students the tools to make smart choices about drugs and alcohol.

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Friendship

Friendship

There are few things more important in childhood than having good friends. Generally, we expect a child to have had at least one “best friend” by the age of eight or nine, and to have a group of close friends by the age of twelve or thirteen.

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Greetings

Greetings

Greetings are the gateway to every social interaction. Greetings set the stage for inter-personal interaction. When children have difficulty with greetings, they send a clear message that they will have difficulty in other social situations.

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Group Behavior

Group Behavior

Interacting in a group requires a very different set of social skills than interacting with individuals. From the time they enter school, children spend most of their time in groups of children; in the classroom, in the lunch room, on the sports field.

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Patience

Patience

Patience—the ability to delay one’s own gratification for the sake of others—is an important part of social success. Adults appreciate patient children and see them as “well-behaved” and somewhat surprisingly, children appreciate this virtue as well.

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Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

The pressure to conform to group expectations is a part of being human. We are social animals, and being accepted by others is an important part of our self-image. But some children are overly concerned with the approval of their peers, even to extent of behaving in ways that they know adults will disapprove of.

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Personal Space

Personal Space

Most children intuitively know about personal space, when someone is standing too close, when someone is standing too far away, or when someone is touching them in an uncomfortable way.

But some children have difficulty learning the rules of non-verbal behavior, including the rules that govern personal space.

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Public Behavior

Public Behavior

Adults are very aware of the different social rules that apply when they are in public or in private, but children often don’t see this distinction. Our expectations of how children should behave in public change with year, and public behaviors that might be tolerated when they are younger, become inappropriate or even odd as they become teenagers.

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Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies

Everyone keeps secrets, and nearly every one lies at some time, but how and when kids do this can make a significant difference in the way they are viewed by their peers.

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Self Worth and Confidence

Self Worth and Confidence

Preteens and teens must respect themselves before they can begin reaching out to others, encountering new people and situations. Children who feel self-worth and confidence have an easier time making friends, handling conflicts, and resisting negative pressures.

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Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship

“Being a good sport,” is more difficult than many people realize. Of course it involves following the rules of the game, but it also involves following social rules; empathizing with the feelings of others, winning graciously, responding appropriately when someone else wins and more.

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Technology

Technology

In the last few years technology has changed the way that children communicate. Technology has also brought on a new set of social rules for children, some of which are obvious and some of which are quite subtle.

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