Middle School: A Book that Gives Parents Insight into the Hearts and Minds of Teenagers

Book Review: Not Much Just Chillin'
Book by Linda Perlstein
Review by Laura Ramirez

Middle school is a confusing time. No longer children, yet barely young adults, middle schoolers are an enigma to themselves, their teachers and their parents. How can a parent guide their child through this challenging time?

After spending a year immersed in the world of tweens (those kids between elementary school and high school), award-winning journalist, Linda Perlstein, has some answers. Perlstein takes us on a journey into the hearts and minds of five suburban Maryland kids, who will remind you of your own children and give you insights into their closely-guarded lives.

"Not Much Just Chillin'" is not your typical book on parenting. Initially, I was a bit put-off by its docu-drama style. A few paragraphs later, I understood the reason behind Perlstein's design. By getting the parent to identify with the details of the preteens' lives and then presenting the research findings, Perlstein gives us tools to reach our children. As parents, our most resourceful tool may be the depths of our compassion.

"Not Much Just Chillin'" is an expose of adolescent angst, push-pull feelings about growing up, and preteen confusion about burgeoning sexuality and gender roles. Although this is a time when most teens push away parents to carve out their own identities, it is a time in life when teenagers need their parents most.

"Not Much Just Chillin'" is a signficant work. Never before has a book given us such an "in" into the lives of middle school children. Although we were all once in junior high, those angst-ridden preteen years are a time of life that most of us would rather forget. Maybe denial is one reason many parents give up on their children during this time. Compounding this is the sadness and confusion that parents often feel when they realize that they have been shut out of their children's lives. With the help of this book, parents will put their children's behavior in perspective and gain insight into how best to navigate the road ahead.

Although the book offers compelling insights into the lives of middle school children, it does get bogged down in trivial details. Keep reading, though--the real-life examples will illustrate how to give your middle school child what is needed in the moment--whether it is guidance, tough-love, a nudge toward responsibility or the willingness to be a silent witness, ready at a moment's notice to offer a helping hand.

Rating: Highly recommended
Audience: Parents, teachers, principals and counselors of middle schoolers. Alsorecommended for parents of preteens and 5th and 6th graders. Read it now to prepare you for the road ahead.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Price: $24.95 Hardcover

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