6 Lessons on Change and Transition from a New Middle Schooler

Today my son, Peyton, starts middle school. There’s been a mix of excitement and anxiousness – which is normal whenever we experience a transition. We’ve been having many conversations about how to navigate the changes and challenges he’s about to face. And it got me thinking how these times of transition in our lives can provide great opportunities for learning lessons and growth if we pay attention.

So here are the lessons and conversations I’ve been having with Peyton; I hope you can find some value in them for yourself.

1. Growth never happens inside our comfort zone. It is when we stretch ourselves that we often learn what we are capable of. So, as unsettling as it can feel at first, it’s important to be open to new experiences and embrace the discomfort of wading in the messy middle. Think of all the tough things you’ve been through and have come out the other side as a stronger, better version of yourself. Take a deep breath and trust in who you are; you got this!

2. Know your worth and value. We all have days and moments when we feel insecure. And it can be heightened in our culture obsessed with social media likes and followers. We all have value and are enough exactly as we are; and at the same time we can work to grow into better versions of ourselves. So know and own your value and how awesome you are; you don’t have to hustle to prove your worth to anyone!

3. Pay attention to whose opinions actually matter. There will always be critics and haters. It’s easy to sit back from the cheap seats and throw out criticism and judgment on others. But that’s not brave. Brené Brown regularly says, “If you’re not stepping into the arena and acting courageously I’m not interested in your feedback or criticism.”

We must recognize the important difference between fitting in and true belonging. As Brené Brown says in this video,

“Don’t walk around the world looking for evidence that you don’t belong or are not enough, because you will always find it. Our worth and belonging are not negotiated with other people; we carry those inside of our hearts.”

Be clear about who you are and focus on belonging to yourself, not fitting in with others. Prioritize your Square Squad over everyone else.

4. It’s okay to ask for help.  Life will be hard at times. And we’re not meant to go it alone; this isn’t a solo journey. Lean on others and ask for help when you need it; it’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. We all need the help and support of others.

5. Embrace being perfectly imperfect. You are not, and never will be, perfect; perfection is a myth. There is tremendous value in giving ourselves permission to be human and mess up. That’s where some of our best learning emerges. Be open to the lessons and growth that come from your mistakes and missteps and focus on being better each day.

6. Be kind to others. We don’t know what others are going through. Be the person who supports and lifts up people, not cuts them down. Know that hurt people hurt other people; those who put you and others down are likely overcompensating for their own insecurities and shame by temporarily deflecting attention away from themselves. So you can have empathy for them AND set boundaries; you don’t have to tolerate poor treatment and don’t have to let in their opinions.

In times of transition when things are uncertain and disruptive around us, we can use these lessons to reground ourselves and provide a sense of calm and clarity as we begin the new journey, one step at a time – and hopefully, enjoy the ride along the way. 

Stay brave. Stay human. Stay safe. And never dull your sparkle!


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