Middle school is that tough transitional time for “tweeners.” They’re not little kids anymore, but they’re not full-blown teenagers yet (at least not until they turn 13). The social environment for middle school kids can be fraught with shifting friendships, cliques, and confusing messages about being popular, academic achievement, and figuring out which friends are good friends.
Life skills every middle school student needs to learn include empathy, respect, self-advocacy, time management, teamwork, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and communication skills. These skills lay the foundation for success in high school, college, and the working world. Here are some tips on life skills for tweens and young teens.
Self-Advocacy and Critical Thinking
Middle school students should learn that not only is it OK to ask questions in class, but it’s also expected; middle school students should know how to learn through questioning and should know that it is OK to be assertive about clarification of material they don’t understand.
Middle schoolers should also understand that disagreement is part of life. They should begin to understand that school isn’t for teaching you what to think, but rather how to think—how to analyze and solve problems, how to separate facts from opinions, how to seek out different viewpoints, and how to approach literature and history with a mind open to different interpretations.
Middle schoolers who don’t know any way out of a disagreement other than a fistfight are going to have a rough time in life. Peaceful and respectful conflict resolution is an essential life skill that should be learned in middle school. Whether it’s fighting over cutting in the lunch line, who gets to go first in a game of four square, or what costume who is going to wear for Halloween, middle schoolers must learn how to hear each other out and to make compromises.
Middle-school-aged students can learn to discuss respectfully, avoid interruption, and listen actively to clarify what they think another speaker has said. Effective communication is clear, concise, and specific—not easy for middle schoolers, but with guidance, they can learn how to organize their thoughts and present their ideas coherently.
Middle school may be a student’s first exposure to managing their own class schedule and homework assignments. They need tools to help them stay organized and to manage their time effectively. Middle school requires a more structured way to balance schoolwork with extracurricular activities and still have time for hanging out with friends. Calendars, organizers, and digital tools that help keep kids on schedule introduce the important skill of time management, which will help kids cope as they approach high school and beyond.
This is a very brief list of life skills every middle school student needs to learn. For more ideas on teaching life skills to middle schoolers, especially for at-risk youth, see the Arise Foundation’s life skills curriculum for middle school.