Making the move from cozy elementary school classrooms to the big-league world of middle school – with locker combinations to remember, class schedules to learn, more homework and all those big kids roaming the halls – is easier when new middle schoolers have this on their side: Good friendships.
Last week, Healthy Kids gave parents a Philadelphia counselor’s advice on helping kids of all ages make and keep friends. Now, there’s even more proof that friendships matter more than ever when for 6th- or 7th-graders entering middle school or junior high. Girls and boys with friends who do well in school and respect the rules – and who steer clear of kids flirting with trouble – consistently did better academically in a recent University of Oregon study.
Good friends in middle school did even more – kids with close relationships with other well-adjusted kids at age 13 were more likely to be happy, productive young adults at age 24, the same researchers found in an earlier study. Why? The way kids navigate the intense social scene of the early teen years has lasting effects (something any adult who struggled through the shark tank of junior high knows all too well).
“The brain is changing rapidly,” one of the researchers notes. “Kids' brains are almost wired to be reading the social world to see how they fit in, and the school is the arena for it." That means that a lot of what really counts in middle school gets overlooked by adults – as some kids sail through the social whirl and others flail. "A great deal of learning is taking place that is not being attended to, “ the researchers note. “Puberty is taking place.