Ahhh, summer bliss … it’s O-V-E-R. I can almost hear the violins playing. It just flies by and soon middle school students everywhere will be trudging off to school, hauling their 80-pound backpacks.
My new novel, The Swap, takes place on the first day of middle school, where a tween girl with mean-girl issues swaps lives—and bodies—with the most popular boy in school. It’s pretty funny, but also a little bit heartbreaking. I set out to write something that would hopefully be a salve to kids that age, in the heat of it all—awakening to their bodies, their boundaries, and their blossoming perspective as they journey into adulthood. As an author of books for 10 to 14-year-olds, parents often ask me what they might do to help make the transformative years of middle school a little bit easier—here’s what I say:
Share authentic stories.
Maybe you had terrible acne, got your period in the middle of social studies class, or chose really rotten friends. Instead of acting like you had it all together (because let’s face it, who does?), share your favorite oh-my-gosh-I-thought-I-was-going-to-die-of-embarrassment stories. Your child will be enthralled, and most likely feel less alone, as they navigate their own emotions and challenging moments that go along with stepping into the world of young adulthood. When you share your authentic stories, you are helping your child tell theirs. Your willingness to be open—even when it might not be flattering—is an invitation and elixir for sharing back.
Help your child understand their changing body.
When I was twelve years old, I read Are You There God It’s Me Margaret around 27 times, mostly because Judy Blume gave me a glimpse of something I knew to be true that nobody around me was talking about and that is [drumroll … ] every girl in the world menstruates. In fact, there wouldn’t be people in the world without this bodily process. It’s kind of a big deal. So why don’t we talk about it? The more we use real language and normalize what is totally normal—puberty’s onset and everything that comes with it—the more tweens will understand and be comfortable with their developing bodies. Kids might act like they are grossed out and don’t want to learn more, but trust me, they do. Periods and erections are not at all the crux of The Swap, but I snuck in plenty of real-life situations that pre teens and new teens face. Its exactly those seemingly innocuous little scenes in my books that inspire letters to me that say things like, “now I know I’m not so weird after all.” If you need help getting a thoughtful honest conversation started, talk to your pediatrician.
Nurture goodness together.
If you have spent any time with an 11-year-old, you might understand why I don’t believe anything is “cliché” for young readers. After all, they have only been on this earth for a little bit over ten years! A first kiss is thrilling. Feeling really sad, angry, or disappointed and managing those emotions is really, really, hard, especially when you are feeling it for the very first time. It is healthy for adolescents to begin to pull away from you as they explore their emerging autonomy—but don’t underestimate the extraordinary power of your love, support and empathy, even if it sometimes seems uncomfortable, they need it more than ever. Kids are hungry for positive cheering. The world has incredible darkness, yes, but there is also so much light. You can tell on social media, those inspiring heart-warming stories that instantly go viral. Kindness. Courage. Hope. Young people want that and they need it more than ever. My hope is that together, we can make our world a little bit better.
The truth is, if I’m lucky your tween might stay up late reading this new book of mine, The Swap, (and I hope they do!) but I have a secret for you: The greatest, most wonderful, best selling author to your kid, is … you.
Megan Shull is the author of The Swap several other books for kids. She holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Cornell University. Armed with the knowledge that sharing authentic stories with kids helps them successfully navigate adolescence, Shull is a children’s book author on a mission: to inspire kindness, empathy, and hope in her young readers.
Photo: Winky Lewis
We have a 3 signed copies of a Berenstain Bears classic, that teaches an important lesson for all little cubs (and parents) heading back to school.
Brother and Sister Bear learn about how to keep clean and not spread germs, in this simple and informative story.
Enter for a chance to win a copy below by Sunday August 30! Open to US residents only.
CLICK HERE to enter if the widget does not appear below.
We’re in the middle of baseball season and one way for your kids to have fun with baseball (other than playing it of course) are baseball-themed books! Here are some of our favorite books that are sure to entertain your little ones through the rest of the season.
Fans of Flat Stanley’s are going to love reading about his flat-tastic baseball abilities!
What makes a day special? Well in this Little Critter story it includes bike riding, football and catching a baseball game!
Pete the Cat is ready to play ball! But what happens when the game doesn’t go Pete’s way?
Thumby Duckling is sure to inspire your little one with his journey to make it to the big leagues.
Harold gets his big chance to show his team that being little isn’t so bad after all.
Your little one is going to enjoy this exciting baseball book filled with record-breaking snowfall, icy fields and a new center fielder who keeps crashing into the wall!
Science fiction meets sports in this time travel story about a boy that goes back in time to meet Roberto Clemente. (Check out Satch & Me for another time traveling baseball story!)
It’s hard being the new kid in school and on the field. It’s even harder when you and your dad are on the run!