Middle School Makeover is a guide for parents and educators to help the tweens in their lives navigate the socially fraught hallways, gyms, and cafeterias of middle school. The book helps parents, teachers, and other adults in middle school settings to understand the social dilemmas and other issues that kids today face. Author Michelle Icard covers a large range of topics, beginning with helping us understand what is happening in the brains of tweens and how these neurological development affects decision-making and questions around identity. She also addresses social media, dating, and peer exclusion. Using both recent research and her personal, extensive experience working with middle-school-aged kids and their parents, Icard offers readers concrete and practical advice for guiding children through this chaotic developmental stage while also building their confidence.
Icard, the creator of the middle school social skills courses Athena's Path and Hero's Pursuit, shares affirming, spot-on advice for guiding kids through the difficult middle school years, blending thoughtful practicality, and gentle humor. As Icard explains, these years build identity on the unsteady ground of a changing body and a complex and shifting social environment. How adults respond can be understood as a paradigm shift: "from fixing things for your child to teaching your child how to fix things himself." Icard recommends that parents serve as the calm "assistant manager" to their children's growing brain, guiding them toward slower thinking and problem solving, and acting as empathetic coach rather than micromanager; she offers sample conversations to demonstrate what that might look like. On the practical side, she recommends cultivating a neutral "Botox Brow" facial expression to tone down reactions, and supports giving children greater independence, letting them take risks, and (monitored) use of social media, among many other helpful tips. Parents should take middle school social problems as seriously as, if more calmly than, their kids do, the author counsels. Most importantly, Icard successfully positions herself as a knowledgeable, sympathetic peer someone who knows that parents want to have a great relationship with their children during this period of rapid change.