Keep talking to your child. It may have been easier when she was younger and hung on your every word, but now more than ever, it's important that you continue to communicate. Don't expect to be able to jump into conversations about dating, drugs or anything else heavy right away. Start small. Talk about everyday stuff often and let conversations segue naturally into those tougher topics.

Do something together. While trying to talk, kids are more likely to open up if you're working on something else. Try talking while you're baking, preparing dinner, cleaning the garage or driving around town. Middle-school insecurity makes it hard for children to reveal themselves, so alleviate the pressure by focusing on something else.

Ask him for his opinions and let him finish his sentences. Don't interrupt him or interject with sage advice if it isn't wanted. Listen more and ask more.

Stay calm. If she does share with you, chances are you'll hear of some hideous wrong she recently suffered at the hands of a friend, teacher or other student. Avoid the urge to "fix it" for her. Instead, listen and provide sensible coping strategies and perspective. Empower her to tackle the "crisis" on her own. Encourage her to talk to the teacher about a situation before jumping in. Understand that the friend she's never speaking to again will probably wind up spending the night at your house that very weekend because they can't bear to be apart.

Give your kid downtime and don't over-schedule him. Middle schoolers get very stressed. Allow him time to do whatever relaxes him, like playing with the dog, watching movies or shooting hoops in the driveway. Limit after-school activities to one or two. Make sure he keeps his school materials and homework organized. This might make him angry with you, but his good grades and reports will decrease his stress.

Set boundaries. She'll complain, but that's just too bad. Structure and limits are important for her well-being and development. Just tell yourself that when she says you're ruining her life, she really means, "You're a great mom and I'll mature more quickly because you cared enough to reach me responsibility with a curfew." Then take several slow breaths because 10 minutes after she finishes yelling at you, she'll ask you to take her to the mall with a gang of her best friends.

Keep a level head if she brings home her first low grade. Help her get organized, regroup, and encourage her to seek help from their teachers. Look for remedies, not penalties.

Try to stay up on his peer group. The faces may change rapidly, but you should meet everyone they're interacting with and find out something about them. If your child has a problem with a friend, you'll be better positioned to give advice if you've connected with that person. You'll also be able to judge when to intervene.

Keep letting him know you value and love him. Praise him as much as you can for the good things he does.

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