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Book Talk Guide: Middle School Superpowers, Raising Resilient Tweens in Turbulent Times

by Stephanie Folarin

Wye River Upper School invites families, friends, and the general public to join our Head of School Book Talk, featuring the author of Middle School Superpowers, Phyllis A. Fagell. In Middle School Superpowers, Fagell describes twelve superpowers middle school children need to develop as they navigate one of life's most challenging periods of transition and change. As a springboard for discussion, we've generated a series of questions related to each of the twelve superpowers that may be relevant to our families. Attend the virtual conversation and listen as Phyllis offers her insights into these queries.

A Deep Dive: The Twelve Middle School Superpowers

The 12 Middle School Superpowers
Super Flexibility: The power to manage change and uncertainty.

  1. If a student doesn’t display this characteristic, should a parent/educator be worried? This question could be applied to all of the superpowers outlined in this book.

  2. All types of people have difficulty transitioning from one place to another, one activity to another (especially if they have ADHD or executive functioning challenges). In your opinion, what supports can parents put in place to strengthen a child’s flexibility?

  3. How can schools support the “flexibility muscle?”

Super Belonging: The power to find your place and make strong connections.
  1. Middle school can be challenging for many students, especially students transitioning from one elementary school to another. What advice can you give parents/educators during these transition periods? 

  2. Feeling a part of the group is extremely important to middle schoolers. Sometimes, finding your “crew” is hard for students. What activities or events can parents/educators participate in to help students feel a sense of belonging as they grow their friendships?

  3. Many schools have “belonging” and “inclusion” in their mission or vision statements, but in your opinion, how can parents/educators help students feel a part of their community, especially during the turbulent years of middle school?

Super Sight: The power to anticipate problems and make a plan.
  1. Understanding that the middle schooler’s brain is doing backflips right now, growing and stretching, how can we help students make good decisions? 

  2. Middle School students are mastering executive functioning skills, so making logical, sound, and safe plans isn’t always at the forefront of their minds. As parents of middle schoolers, should we get together and develop some basic rules for our students so that no one feels left out or “over-parented,” or would you suggest something else?

  3. Random question: As a clinician, how do you feel about some schools' “invite everyone” stance? For example, invite everyone in the class if you are throwing a party.

Super Vulnerability: The power to know when and how to ask for help.
  1. Historically, adults have complained about middle school being the worst time in their lives. We obviously don’t want our students to feel that. How can we, as parents, help make middle school the best years of our children’s lives?

  2. As kids figure themselves out, sometimes they lash out. What can we do to reduce bullying and negativity in our middle schools?

  3. How can we help our middle schools become strong self-advocates and upstanders?

Super Bounce: The power to learn and recover from missteps.
  1. As adults, we sometimes hold grudges. How can we help our middle schoolers be better than us by forgiving and moving forward?

  2. Recovering from a misstep is difficult at all ages; how can we help our students/children fortify this skill?

  3. As a parent, how can I recover from another child making my middle schooler feel bad? For context, I want to be friends with all the middle school parents, but sometimes it’s hard when I know their kid is making my kid feel bad.

Super Agency: The power to find your purpose and take initiative.
  1. As an adult, I am still trying to figure out my purpose. How can I help my child figure out their purpose in a healthy and relaxed way?

  2. Middle school students struggle to take initiative, especially when they dislike the task ahead. How can we make them more focused on their work and see the end goal as something positive?

  3. If a middle school student isn’t “passionate” about something, what can we do to help inspire them?

Super Force Field: The power to set healthy boundaries.
  1. How can we help our middle school students stay grounded in themselves and not get so wrapped up in the feelings of others?

  2. What advice can you give us for helping our middle schoolers set boundaries with their hearts and time?

  3. How can we, as parents, help our kids develop a sense of independence but not cut off communication with us?

Super Security: The power to take pride in your identity and step into someone else’s shoes.
  1. What do I do as a parent when my middle schooler constantly tells me that I’ve “misunderstood” something when nothing is wrong with my comprehension skills?

  2. What advice can you give my family right now because our lives are changing because of jobs and marriage issues? We don’t want our middle schoolers concerned.

  3. How can we help middle schoolers process the world's craziness without desensitizing or overwhelming them?

Super Healing: The power to cope and self-regulate emotions.
  1. Negativity invades all aspects of life. How can we help our middle schools remain focused, passionate, and positive about their lives?

  2. How can we help our middle schoolers understand that everyone has bad days and someone else’s irritation (adults and teachers) doesn't mean the middle schoolers are disliked, or something is wrong with them? 

  3. How can we promote positive self-talk?

Super Balance: The power to set a reasonable pace and realistic goals.
  1. Some middle school students are “perfectionists,” how can we help them move beyond this thinking?

  2. How can we encourage kids to make mistakes in their learning? Try things they can’t master immediately and not buckle under the pressure.

  3. How can we encourage middle schools to relax OFF social media?

Super Daring: The power to go out on a limb and take smart risks.
  1. How do we help our middle schoolers make new friends?

  2. My child is nothing like me or my wife. How can we help him become more confident in his own abilities? I’m not sure how to “raise” him right now.

  3. How can we help middle schoolers take their appropriate slice of conversation pie during class?

Super Optimism: The power to find hope and humor in the hard stuff.
  1. In your professional opinion, how can we help middle school students understand that right now isn’t forever? We want them to reach adulthood and not think they will always feel these feelings, look this way, live in this place, etc…

  2. How can we help our middle school students heal from the trauma they experienced in elementary school? (bullying, etc.)

  3. How can we help parents remain positive throughout the middle school years when parenting is different, and school expectations change?

Phyllis L. Fagell is a licensed clinical professional counselor, a certified professional school counselor, a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and other national publications, and author of Middle School Matters.

This event is open to the public. For joining information, please register in advance.


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