By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

If so, you're not alone. Scores of parents of children going through the "tween" years will tell you they're going through troubled times as well. This is particularly troublesome given the increasing demands of middle school learning. In mathematics, lessons in basic computation are giving way to complex problem-solving. Reading assignments require students to articulate what they have learned in oral and written form. And subjects ranging from science to history to the social studies likewise require more critical thinking. As the challenges mount, your child's equally behavioral changes can make learning a volatile proposition at best.

So what should parents do?

Expect some changes and know what to look for. Talk with your child's school counselor to find out more about other pressures that may be arising in the school environment, and school-based solutions that may be under way. If you learn from teachers that your son or daughter is struggling, you need to take prompt action to shore up these deficiencies. Your child's teachers and counselors should have a list of school or community-based options for supplemental instruction. Once your child is involved in these activities, find out what types of assignments are involved and when they're supposed to be completed. Check with teachers on a weekly basis to determine if the extra work is translating to progress in the classroom.

Think about potential mentors for your child. While your son or daughter may be no fan of overt parental control, he or she may still value advice from other adults or responsible older youth. Ideally, this should be someone your child can talk to about emotional issues and someone who can reinforce your views about keeping on track academically regardless of the difficulties of this age. It's an added bonus if this individual has the time and ability to help with homework or special assignments that can help build skills and knowledge.

Find a productive, smart extracurricular activity. If your son or daughter is struggling academically, a challenging extracurricular activity could actually build academic motivation and self-assurance. If your son is anxious about being too small to play football but loves to read, start your own at-home book club, with rewards every time a book is completed. If your daughter's having trouble fitting in with the popular kids but designed her first Web page when she was 10, look for a technology club that can help her hone these skills and meet girls with similar abilities.

In the meantime, try not to worry. With consistent assurance that your child is loved and monitoring of the academic bottom line, you can both survive the "terrible tweens" older and wiser for the experience of getting through it together.


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