A great comparison to kids is cats and dogs; well, puppies. Toddlers are the equivalent of a puppy…questionable potty training, love hugs and kisses and lots of playtime. They can’t get enough of you. Middle schoolers on the other hand are like cats; lots of avoidance with just a bit of needed affection and attention. Furthermore, when you get too close too quickly they run away. Here’re some thoughts about how to avoid the skittish cat syndrome:
Build a foundation of openness – communicate frequently with your middle schooler. Ask how their day went, get to know their friends, ask how their doing or how their coping, and how you can help. Key here is not to wait for the crisis.
Tread lightly – take a soft approach vs. a “we need to talk…” Try doing something that your son or daughter likes and then letting the issue come up in natural conversation. Spending time in a 1:1 setting will only make this easier.
Let the issue pass – rather than escalating a disagreement into WW3, let it pass until things have settled and you’re both on even ground. Then in a calm voice ask your son or daughter what happened. And playing in the above point regarding doing something they like could be a nice way to ease into it as well.