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Ask the Experts

How Can I Help My Tween Who Hates Her School?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

I was wondering if you had any advice for me. My 12-year-old daughter, who is in seventh grade, hates her school and classmates for the most part. We moved to this new school last year and she had a tough time, and this year has not improved. It is an extremely small K-8 school and she has 18 classmates of whom 12 are boys. She was in a school of 150 per grade before. This is a tough age - but her self- esteem is about nil and I have spoken with the school about my concerns. She displays a lot of anger. What can I do? I would like to try transferring but don't know if that is possible. Help!

Answer:

It is not clear if your move was a natural promotion to middle school, or if you moved because your family relocated. The transition to middle school from grade school is hard on many children and if your move includes giving up home, friends and familiar surroundings, the transition can seem very daunting. If this was the case, having her find ways to stay connected to her past, while finding ways to integrate into a new environment, can lessen her loss.

If your daughter did not have a choice in what school she now attends, this could also be problematic. No one likes to feel that they don't have some control over their lives. I think your statements show that you are aware of what some of the potential difficulties are. If all the children in this small K-8 school have been going to school together since kindergarten, it might be difficult to fit in. Their relationships have been established for a long time and this is a sensitive age where "newness" is threatening. The girl-to-boy ratio is also problematic, making her options even fewer.

It is a good idea to broaden a child's social network and activities when they are feeling isolated. However, it would seem due to the size of the school that you would need to seek resources outside the school environment.

School is more than just a place for academic learning; it is also about building social and emotional connections, cooperation and personal growth. It would be important to find out from your daughter what she feels she needs from her school setting to feel successful, and then work with the school to see if assimilation is possible, or determine if perhaps a different school would be a better fit.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/9/2012:
"my twelve year old daughter in grade six hates her school and her class mates she sometimes sites in her room and crys her friend once told me "when your daughter sites in her class she looks mad or sad but when she come out for recesse shes really happy and jumpy i think its her teacher shes kinda mean and her class mates they are really snobby "
01/5/2012:
"My daughter said she hates everybody in the school and everybody hates her,she does not want to go to school because this is the last year in the middle school and she finds any excuse not to go. Do I need to punish her? "
11/12/2009:
"I am having the same problem. My daughter hates her High School. The manner in which the student are spoken to, She finished 9Th grade with 4.0. She participate in plays, cross country and the track team. She complains that the school is dirty and that the teaches speak to the students rudely. She want to attend a different school where students are treated like human beings.(The environment is not conducive for learning)"
10/19/2009:
"I liked this article. We relocated to a new state, and using Great Schools.com vast knowledge choose what we thought would be a good school for our 8th grader. Sadly it does not tell you if the students show respect for other students. Students are rude and mean spirited here at Northridge Middle School. In the first few weeks of school my son was targeted. First with name calling,then pushing,to his hand being slammed in his locker. And now they want him to fight, because he won't he's dubbed a sissy!! I called the school about this situation rapid growing out of control. He had both boys meet in his office to get this bully stop, only to have others follow. Why is there not stricter rules? how do children get away with such awful behavior? How would these parents feel if it was one of their own? This school was rated 9 out of 10. In my book they FAIL! They FAIL their students, how can any one learn?.... especially children, when the whole time they have to watch there back! ! NEED HELP IN INDIANA!!!!!"
03/25/2008:
"My son have big problem, reading he have 13 year hold, is in 7gra middle school and he recived three day tutoring w/ a nehibor, he love school , he born so premature w/ 22 weak, allways he have diferent problem, he reading now the same of firt o second grade, he love all materia, eccept reading, he's emotional condition now is only down self estime,allways he is especial classe, the little he reading now is for the tutoring class, some teacher tell me in the passt probably never reading but he did, I see he is litlle lazy. please I need good tips"
03/21/2008:
"Your daughter could be angry because she doesn't feel anyone is paying attention to her needs. I had a simular problem with one of mine. So I took a step back. Some kids move at a slower pace than others and don't handle change well. We took our child out of the brick and mortar schools and went virtual for a while- OHDELA. The change in our child was immediate. After about a year of virtual schooling and introducing him into the new area via library classes and city recreation athletics, where he met many kids that attended the schools, he was ready to go back where he is to this day. So keep in mind the old saying 'different strokes for different folks'."
03/21/2008:
"My daughter has ADHD and is currently in a very small private school. Currently there are 3 students in her class including her. The other 2 are boys. She is having difficulty adjusting to this class this year. We are in the midst of finding her a new school this next school season as she will be in 7th grade (middle schooler). Pros and cons to putting her back in a private school versus public school?"
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