PHOENIX — Middle school is tough for kids, and new research shows it may be even tougher for their moms. An Arizona State University professor tracked moms’ well-being through the development stages of their kids from infancy to college. She focused on moms, not dads, because moms are usually the primary caregiver.
Jen Clausing’s daughter, Jadyn, starts middle school in the fall. She can’t forget how she felt when Jadyn’s sister, Macy, started there three years ago.
Jen told Ivanhoe, “It was like all of a sudden, she looked older, was acting older, and all of a sudden had the bigger responsibilities all within, seriously, two weeks. I remember just feeling completely overwhelmed.”
“There was one stage where everyone peaked, the bad things, and the stress, and that was middle school,” said Suniya Luthar, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Arizona State.
Luthar measured moms’ adjustment during their kid’s middle school years. They scored lower for life satisfaction and higher for stress, emptiness, guilt and child negative behaviors than moms with kids of other ages. Luthar said moms are unprepared for all the changes.
“Suddenly, this child morphs into this weird person who looks at you with distance and sometimes even dislike and scorn. That’s awfully hard,” said Luthar.
Luthar said moms need more support from family, friends and support groups during and before the middle school years.
"Imagine what your kids need from you. That is what you need from other people, and that needs to be in place and that needs to be respected, prioritized and sustained,” said Luthar.
“Suddenly, this child morphs into this weird person who looks at you with distance and sometimes even dislike and scorn. That’s awfully hard.” — Suniya Luthar, psychology professor at Arizona State University
Jen was in one of Luthar’s Authentic Connections online support groups and feels the pieces will fit together better the second time around.
Luthar said husbands and partners can offer good support, but moms need a “sister network” as well.
Her Authentic Connections program is 12 weeks of one-hour sessions. She runs the sessions either on video or sometimes in person.