AND THEN THEY STOPPED TALKING TO ME: Making Sense of Middle School
When Judith Warner’s New York Times bestseller Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety was published in 2005, it explored the frenzied perfectionism of American parenting and created a firestorm. Now, Warner brings her biting commentary and acute insight, plus a whole new level of empathy, to AND THEN THEY STOPPED TALKING TO ME: Making Sense of Middle School (Crown Paperback; March 9, 2021), a meticulously researched investigation of one of the most painful periods in the lives of both children and parents. COVID-19 has forced parents to deal with unprecedented disruptions to their children’s lives and educations. And no group has suffered more than families of middle schoolers. Warner’s insightful book will give parents a much deeper understanding of what both they and their almost-teenagers have been living through. With humor and compassion, it also offers hope – and solid tips – for a better “new normal” when middle school life starts up again.
“The awfulness of the middle school years is a given in our country,” Warner says. “But while early adolescence always has its challenges, it doesn’t have to be as bad as we think. So much of the problem has to do with the way we think about these kids, the choices we give (or don’t give) them, and the climate we create all around them. I started this book asking why it was so hard to be a middle school parent. The great joy of the research was finding answers that also showed me how that phase of life, for parents and kids, could be different. I came away with life lessons that have helped me – and my family – long after we left the middle school years behind. And that’s because making sense of middle school gives you the tools to make better sense of yourself, at any age.”
AND THEN THEY STOPPED TALKING TO ME is the result of Warner’s quest, an extraordinary blend of social history, memoir, and journalism rich with anecdotes of individual experiences intertwined with a deep intellectual understanding of what the middle school phase of life really is, independent of what we believe it to be. In the course of her research, Warner interviewed 125 students, experts, educators, and former middle schoolers of all ages from a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. What she found was an overwhelming pattern of adults being so consumed by their own issues around social status and self-image that they projected their insecurities, from middle school and far beyond, onto the children in their lives.
To break out of that self-perpetuating cycle, Warner writes, we need to understand how our own “inner middle schoolers” affect us in the present day, recognizing that they tend to resurface when our pre-teens enter this difficult phase of life. If we can become aware of our triggers and challenge our beliefs, we can make life much happier for our kids — and ourselves.
About the Author: Judith Warner is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety and Hillary Clinton: The Inside Story, as well as the award-winning We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication. A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Warner has been a frequent contributor to The New York Times, where she wrote the popular Domestic Disturbances column, as well as to numerous other publications.