Beyond the Bounds of Their Own Minds

Submitted By:
Louisa Polos Condon, School of the Holy Child, Rye, NY

And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School by Judith Warner
Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, May 5, 2020

It is no secret that the middle school years are challenging, if not the most challenging, for students and their parents. In her new book, Judith Warner explores what it is exactly that makes these years so "scary" and yet so full of potential. Using historical context, Warner suggests that parents often channel their own scars from middle school when supporting their own children through these years and that this fallacy can make the middle school experience even worse for their children. Additionally, Warner cites brain science research that affirms why every development in middle school "has the potential to be both wonderful and terrible – sometimes at the same time." Ultimately, this new book offers support to parents and educators alike as they approach the academic and social-emotional challenges of middle school. Warner reminds the reader that students crave positive feedback, especially from their peers, and reiterates the need for compassionate leadership. To help middle school students make sense of the behaviors around them, "spark… empathy," and focus on opportunities for joy. Finally, Warner charges adults to embody compassion, saying, "teaching it, modeling it, and getting your middle-schoolers to expand their thinking and feeling beyond the bounds of their own minds are by far the best gifts you can give them."

Psychology & Human Development