Maria L. Ansley is mom to two growing kids ages 6 and 12.

What is your favorite thing about raising a middle schooler?

My favorite thing about raising a middle schooler is the incredible physical, intellectual and emotional growth that is rapidly turning my dependent child into a freethinking young adult.

What was the hardest thing about raising a middle schooler?

The hardest things about raising a middle schooler are the changes I need to make emotionally in order to best serve his needs rather than my own. My child’s burgeoning need for independence, acceptance, and validation are often at odds with his prepubescent dependence and idealization that I had become accustomed to. These changes in my child’s needs happened so rapidly that it was difficult for me to adapt to them.

What was an unexpected or surprising thing about raising a middle schooler?

An unexpected thing about raising a middle schooler was how rapidly the transition from child to adult can happen. It’s almost like a light switch that one day turned on.

What developmental milestones and health changes surprised you in this age?

The developmental milestone that surprised me the most was his shyness. Previously, he was matter-of-fact and intellectual about his physicality, he is now attaching the complex emotional and social aspects of self to his physical being.

How important is vaccination in keeping your children healthy and ready to learn?

Vaccination is a very important weapon in my parenting arsenal. In order to grow, my child needs to remain as healthy as possible. While vaccines cannot prevent every illness they do prevent a number of long term and possibly dangerous illnesses that can affect his intelligence, sight, hearing, and motor development. Hepatitis and HPV vaccines can also help protect him from cancer. Unlike most things in parenting, this can be done easily and has many benefits.

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for a parent of a rising middle schooler?

The biggest piece of advice to anyone raising a middle schooler is to find balance. The balance between protecting your children and allowing them to make their own mistakes. The balance between maximizing your children’s safety and allowing them the need for freedom. The balance between emotionally validating your children while simultaneously teaching them necessary behavioral control. This requires much painful introspection and sometimes even watching your children suffer the consequences of their actions, but I feel it is so very necessary for a child’s maturation.