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About Your Child

Characteristics of Your Child

(It's not just your child)

Here are some of the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual developmental characteristics that are common to adolescents.  


  • Heart and body are not growing at the same rate
  • Sexual maturation is occurring
  • Rapid growth requires better nutrition
  • Alternating periods of extreme restlessness and fatigue
  • Cartilage starts to harden in the skeleton (tail bone)  *Can be very uncomfortable


  • Desire to make personal choices
  • Strong desire for social acceptance
  • Start to care about opinions of friends more than opinions of parents; still very dependant upon parental values
  • Willing to work and sacrifice for social rewards
  • Test limits of acceptable behavior


  • Many internal conflicts
  • Rapid shifts and variation of moods
  • Believe adults do not understand
  • Easily offended and sensitive to criticism
  • Believe that their personal problems, experiences and feelings are only happening to them


  • Most interested in learning when it relates to their immediate goals and interests
  • Like to discuss their experiences with adults
  • Minds are so preoccupied with other issues, they just forget things
  • Argue to clarify their own thinking and to convince others
  • Personal-social concerns have priority over academic matters

Adapted from This We Believe (NMSA, 1992), Caught in the Middle (California State Department of Education, 1987), and The Exemplary Middle School (W.M. Alexander and P.S. George, 1993)  


What Kinds of Changes are Taking Place in My Child?

Adolescents (your middle school children) are at such interesting stages of life.  As adults, I'm sure we remember incidences that took place in our sixth grade year of school.  However, we have kind of forgotten all of the changes we were experiencing.  Your children's bodies are undergoing so much change.  Hormones are raging, they are getting taller, voices are changing, puberty is either happening or on its way.  This is a very confusing time for them, as they are not sure why their bodies are behaving as they are.   Middle school students start to feel the need for privacy and act as if they do not want adults in their lives.  Be very sure that they do want you and definitely need you to continue to play a positive role in their lives.   Adolescents start to identify differences between themselves and others.  Generally a popularity contest starts to take place.  Middle school can be tough for children that feel like they do not "belong."  Encourage them to participate in school activities.  This could give them a group to "belong" to.  

Why Do Middle Schools Exist?

Adolescents have a "unique mix of evolving capacities and emerging needs."  As middle school educators, we understand, maybe not completely, that middle school children's abilities and needs change frequently.  Middle schools are designed, and educators are trained, to keep up with the needs.   "Middle Schools promote intellectual development."  Due to the number of clubs and exploratory classes available, in addition to math, science, social studies, and language arts, students are challenged intellectually on a daily basis.   Your children are developing skills during their middle school years that they will use in the future.  Middle schools help to develop these skills, along with the active, positive participation of parents.  The goal is to encourage students to continue to be, or become:

  • an intellectually reflective person
  • a person en route to a lifetime of meaningful work
  • a good citizen
  • a caring and ethical individual
  • a healthy person

Because adolescents do experience so many changes, middle schools are designed to keep them on the right path and be supportive during this time.   (Quotes and bulleted list come from Turning Points 2000:  Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century, Carnegie Corporation, 2000, pp. 1, 10, & 22)