The objective of this article is to point out the special pressures on young adolescents in junior high in an effort to help parents deal with the issues to prevent trouble from developing.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: When the child moves from elementary school to a junior-high school, new pressures may be felt. A number of issues may arise related to early or late physical development, and added pressures to meet multiple teacher expectations, while home is demanding more as well. This can add up to problems if proper support and understanding are not available.
A family came to see me a while ago. Their child had always been radiant and popular. With the beginning of junior high, she became withdrawn. She wasn’t as serious student but had always done fairly well in school. She worked harder than some of the other kids which earned the respect of her teachers. She had gone to camp for the past three years. Suddenly, she didn’t want to return. When fall came, she spent a lot of time in her room. Few friends came over or called. There was a conference with a school counselor who sent her to me. everyone took a closer look.
The family saw a daughter who was maturing slowly physically and, unlike her friends, wasn’t ready for boy-girl activities. She felt left out. They saw that living up to the demands of eight teachers in junior high was much more difficult than working with the team of three teachers she had had in sixth grade. This child felt that she was a failure and decided to keep a low profile lest she remind everyone of her inadequacies.
After I met with the family, a new approach was found. The family added more psychological support and expressed more reasonable expectations. Love and good sense helped this girl to make progress.
For many young adolescents, the story is not so positive. Pressures keep multiplying, symptoms of unhappiness and feelings of unworthiness increase.
In early adolescence, there are still the pressures of the young school-age period; added to them are the pressures of doing well in a complex school program. At home, too, more may be expected of these kids–help in housekeeping, or in the care of younger children, or in earning money. The thinking may be, “he is older now–why not?” The answer is that while older, he’s not necessarily better put together. At age l0 he may have been more efficient and task oriented than he is at a more stressful age of l3.
For a while, parents’ expectations may need to be lessened rather than increased. Parents can consider this a kind of temporary lull in the service of future growth. This growth will come as the childhood identity is shed in order to make way for the identity that will properly fit the adult-in-the-making. It sis just that the “making” takes a long time.
Many junior-high pupils are concerned with preparation for high school and college. They need to know that it is a myth that junior-high grades affect the decisions of college admissions officers. For those youngsters who are unsure of themselves academically, it may relieve some of the pressure to hear about satisfying careers for which college training is not necessary.
Attention should be paid to the here and now. Parents and children need to figure out together what the priorities are–what must be stressed and what can be ignored.