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How to Support Your Middle Schooler Navigate Cliques, Friendships, and the Weird Stuff  

Jessica Speer is an award-winning author with a master’s degree in social sciences. Her books engage and entertain her readers by combining the stories of teens with fun activities and practical insights. 

We discuss some of the important topics facing middle schoolers today that are covered in her latest book Middle School―Safety Goggles Advised: Exploring the Weird Stuff from Gossip to Grades, Cliques to Crushes, and Popularity to Peer Pressure. 

We discuss the tween/teen social dynamics and development.

Let’s dig in!

Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.

What You Will Learn: 

  • Why is middle school such a tricky time for so many kids – boys and girls? 
  • What is happening socially, that can tend to make the tween and teen years particularly difficult socially to navigate? 
  • What are some of the repeated themes middle schoolers face today?
  • Why are changing friendships so common in middle school, and how can parents support their kids during this time? 
  • What she learned while interviewing middle schoolers about conflict and aggressive behavior. 
  • Advice for moms that have a struggling middle schooler.

Where to find Jessica:

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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone, and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and the woman that you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

SHERYL:  Jessica, welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. I’m so excited to have you here.

JESSICA: Thanks so much, Sheryl. I’m excited to talk to you about all sorts of good stuff today.

SHERYL:  Yes, well, I have been enjoying your book. Your latest book, Middle School―Safety Goggles Advised: Exploring the Weird Stuff from Gossip to Grades, Cliques to Crushes, and Popularity to Peer Pressure.

So I just want you to start before we get into the book’s meat. Please share a little bit about yourself. And what was your inspiration for writing this latest book? 

JESSICA: Well, my name is Jessica Spear. And I write books for middle-grade kids. So anywhere from eight to 14, and I’ve got a background in social sciences, I love to dive into tricky social stuff. Youth behavior fascinates me. I’m also the mom of two teens. 

I started writing when they were in early elementary school because I noted that relationships were getting more complicated. So I was curious about that. And so that grew into a friendship program that grew into my first book. 

And then, when I hit middle school, I noticed things even got more complicated. And Middle School is such an interesting time for so many people. So as a writer and a researcher, I thought, What if I dove into what is happening in middle school and dissected it for kids with kids? 

And that’s how I came about writing this book, Middle School―Safety Goggles Advised, which just does that. 

It’s filled with humor and uses a funky scientific process to dissect your tricky stuff that starts to surface in those middle school years.

SHERYL:  Wow, it is such a fun book. And I love the illustrations in the book. She’s wonderful, isn’t she? Yeah.

JESSICA:  Lesley Imgart. So yeah, I will shout out to her. She’s an amazing illustrator. She’s done my third book, too. But she’s incredible. So she brings it to life through her comic sort of illustrations.

SHERYL:  And I love the front cover because I wish I had it here. I got the Kindle version to show, but it makes me want to read it. Like I was thinking, I wish I had had this book as a middle schooler because it would have helped me. 

After all, those years are so hard. And are so much to navigate, and I think even harder now and coming out of the pandemic. But you wrote a book a year ago called BFF or not, friends. What’s the rest of the title?

JESSICA: BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl’s Guide to Happy Friendships.

And so that book grew out of a friendship program that I ran. Girls mostly populated that. I wish I had more boys in there. But it just turns out that a lot of girls were the ones that frequented that program. 

And through that program, I kind of learned a lot of friendship truths that we learn throughout our lives that I wanted to share with girls earlier, along with many of the stories I heard from girls. So that grew into that first book. So it’s got a mouthful of a title BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl’s Guide to Happy Friendships.

SHERYL:  Yeah, yeah. And so, how is this book different than that one?

JESSICA: This one, so I wanted to tackle something for all genders and really specific middle school ages. So I wanted to do so for this. In this book, Middle School―Safety Goggles, Advised – I wanted the reader to be the protagonist. 

So, it is a nonfiction guidebook, but it’s filled with choose-your-own ending stories. And these were stories when I was researching and working – I was working with seventh graders, and I’d hear these scenarios repeatedly. I’m like, wow, this is a thing – this happens. 

So I would turn those into these. Choose your own ending stories. That gives the reader a chance to navigate how I might do that. If all this gossip spreads about me, what might I do in that situation? Or what might I do if my best friend and I have a crush on the same person? The dance is coming up. So, it just explores safely. A lot of these predicaments come up for middle schoolers during those years.

SHERYL:  I love that part of the book because, as moms and caregivers, it’s really easy. When I have a son and two daughters and their boys, I want to ask you about that. But we right now just for the sake of like telling my story. 

It was really difficult when my two girls would get in the car, and they would have something happen in middle school and share it. And it was, it was so easy to, like, get upset. 

First, it would remind me of being back in middle school, and my mama bear would come out. And then, I would want to tell them what they need to do, try to improve it, or fix it in some way, which I know. It’s not even though, of course, we want to do that. 

It’s not that helpful because, first of all, they can patch it up the next day. And then you talk about that in the book and conflict versus bullying, which I want you to talk about a little bit. But getting them to think about what they can do proactively. And problem-solving empowers kids. 

And that was why I just thought, Gosh, that’s so good. That you get them to think about what you will do in this situation? 

JESSICA: Yeah, because one of the things that are so tricky about middle school is this is the first time they’re dealing with this stuff at this level. So, of course, it gets tricky and uncomfortable because they’ve never dealt with this before. 

And as we know, as adults, sometimes dealing with tricky social stuff is still hard, so of course, it will be complicated for them. But what was so interesting, as I was writing and testing this with beta readers is, I would go right, this scenario, so let’s go back to you, and your best friend have a crush on the same person, the dance is coming, and then I’d write some endings to that story. 

And when I tested out, your kids had different responses on how they felt was the right way to respond. So that was enlightening for me because there’s not just one way to respond; how we respond will depend on us, our experiences, our personalities, and our values. 

So that’s good for us to know, as parents, that sometimes we come in with what we think the right answer might be. But that might not be the right answer for our kid at that moment, given that circumstance, so throwing these choose-your-own ending stories at kids gives them a chance to think through that. Then what might I do in that situation? 

And maybe with some practice, if that situation comes up, you never know, they might, they might navigate it differently. But of course, it’s all trial and error at this age, and mistakes and misunderstandings are common.

SHERYL:  Yes, yes. You explore ten common middle school experiences, and I love it. I love how you call them weird behaviors. First of all, I want to ask you, what made you decide to call it weird behaviors? 

JESSICA:  I put so much thought into this. So I’m glad you mentioned that. So when I started with this book, I always started researching with kids. So I spent the year in seventh-grade classrooms and started with this question. I was like, Hey, what are the tricky kind of weird things about middle school that you would want to see in a book that’s maybe not out there? 

And so I use that word because I don’t want to say that they’re bad or good or anything. They’re just – I could have said different, I could have said tricky, but I thought it weird because what I was hearing back from them is they were a little weird and uncomfortable. 

So, it started with asking students what tricky weird stuff happened in middle school, which opened the floodgates. I got all sorts of responses. But when I tabulated those responses, ten things rose to the surface. 

I’m like, oh, okay, this is consistent that these ten things are on the top 10 list of the weirdest things that go down in middle school, so that’s perfect. I’ll start there. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll try to unpack these in a way that helps kids navigate them.

SHERYL:  Yeah. I thought it was so inviting and weird because it feels weird and awkward when I think back to middle school. So I loved that. And, as you said, they are navigating this for the first time. And that’s awkward and hard. 

Sometimes we tend to think this is bad, but this is a natural transition that they’re going through. So yeah, I love that. Can you see in the first chapter that harsh judgment is the number one weird behavior? Will you talk more about why harsh judgment?

JESSICA:  So when I was talking with seventh-grade classrooms about what were some of the weird, tricky things about middle school, some of the comments that were the most frequent were some mean remarks, rude comments, and snide looks, so what I did was I thought, well, all of this is sharing that these students are feeling judged by their peers. 

So I thought, let’s start there, let’s start there and unpack judgment, what that feels like, and why we do that. And I think some of this judgment was real. And some of it might have been the fear of being judged that students had. They feared the judgment they might get from their peers if they looked a certain way or did something. 

But that was very real, that they felt judged by their peers or feared. They’re fearful of being judged by their peers. So I thought, perfect, let’s start with their chapter one, no harsh judgment. So, I unpack that. 

What is that? Why? Why do we do that as humans, and what’s underneath that? It’s a blend of fearing difference. Maybe our insecurity there are students in middle school tend to categorize themselves. So it’s all of that blended. So, of course, it feels uncomfortable, and they’re navigating that as best as they can.

SHERYL:  I love how you talk about the importance of belonging. And had such a struggle for kids this age and trying to figure out where I belonged. Where do I fit in? And then, that judgment, going along with that, like, wanting to be accepted, wanting to be liked, and then fearing that judgment, and I hear from many moms with kids especially struggling with that.

How would you advise a parent to help when their daughter or son comes home from school and says, I’m being left out? They’re judging me. I’m being excluded. What do you think? How do you think that parents can help?

JESSICA: Yeah, and that’s such a tough one. Because as parents, it just breaks our hearts when our kids feel that it is so uncomfortable. And I did hear from students that everybody at some point, especially during middle school, is experiencing that discomfort. 

And there is this process where they are trying to figure out, where do they feel like they have a connection and a fit, and that has some ups and downs they might end up in a group, that it’s not a good fit, some groups are more critical of others, and some are more accepting of others. 

And so, as kids navigate this, they tend to find, over time, the right fit, but it tends to be some ups and downs, but what in the book, I encourage kids to realize is one when people are criticizing you, and judging or judging you, harshly, it’s not about you. 

So even though that is, it’s so hard to remember. It’s not about you. So, we can remind our kids that we can remind them that ideally, we want to find a friend or a couple of friends, that we do feel like it’s a good fit, and that we have we feel accepted, and we have some connection there. 

And sometimes, that takes time. So you’re just letting kids know that you are okay. And this process takes time, keep at it, and keep looking for the friends that light you up rather than the ones that bring you down. So just encouraging them in those ways. 

But knowing that this is the real common thing in middle school. So as parents, we can ground ourselves and try to stay as calm and grounded as we can and as loving and supportive as we hear them, let them process those uncomfortable motions, and just guide them to keep looking out for those friends who feel like a good fit.

SHERYL:  I love that you’re saying that. And I was watching as I was preparing some of the videos that you’ve done and things to say things that we tend to say, as parents and then what not to say, and validating their feelings, and not minimizing like that, rather than trying to talk them out of their hurt.

Saying wow, I can see how that hurt. Mm-hmm. And yeah, I thought that was so good. So they can go to your YouTube channel or your website as well, which we’ll share, we’ll share your website when we’re towards the end, but I wanted you to share with our listeners because you make such a good distinction between conflict and bullying. 

And it’s easy when they come home and tell you have been heard to get emotional as a mom, so how do we discern the difference?

JESSICA: Yeah, and this happens a lot because sometimes we jump right to it; oh, that’s bullying when it’s a conflict that kids are trying to figure out the skills to navigate conflict in healthy ways. And let’s face it. Many adults still don’t have great skills to navigate conflict healthily. 

So when I say conflict, I’m talking about the strife between people or people within a group. Some sort of strife could be somebody saying something mean and offending and hurting somebody. But I’m going to put that all in the conflict bucket. 

It tends to be on both sides. It’s not super aggressive. Maybe it’s one time, and you just need some resolution healing so that the people involved tend to be on an equal playing field regarding status and power. So where that gets different from bullying is there is a power differential. 

So one person might have more social status or physical power. So, there tends to be some sort of difference in power. And it feels very one way. So one person is being targeted. And it’s pretty aggressive. It’s pretty mean. And then it goes on over time. 

So it’s not just kind of a one-and-done. It seems to be happening over time. So that sounds like a case of bullying, where some intervention does need to happen, and we need to get some help. 

But if it’s a case of conflict, that’s an opportunity for us to think about a way to help our kids navigate conflict, and sometimes it is putting a boundary down or maybe putting some space in that relationship or speaking up. 

So there are all sorts of ways to resolve conflict, but it’s important to know the difference so that we can help our kids learn the skills for the inevitable conflicts they will have with their peers.

SHERYL:  Yeah, one thing I noticed with my daughters is the drama piece, which you talk about, and getting in the car, and they’d had a conflict, but it was usually like, one friend got upset with them. So they told another friend, and the other friend said they would return to them, and then there would be this drama. 

And I remember I did not do it well. But by the time my youngest came along nine years later, I had learned a few things. And I was like, wow, do like that? Must have hurt? And she’s like, yes, it did. And I’m like, Well, what do you want – to just ask open-ended questions? 

I was always surprised by the pickup time the next day when she would get in the car and tell me she was okay with that friend. Now, we know that’s not how it always goes. But I was still really feeling it and was thinking, gosh, don’t hang out with her anymore. 

And didn’t learn to say that, and they had worked through that conflict. Yes. That is what you’re talking about. How do we help them to navigate through the conflict?

JESSICA: Yeah, and I love that you mentioned your reaction. Because I would that as well, I think, oh, my gosh, I would go back and ask and think this is going to be an ongoing thing. But often, it might be water under the bridge for young kids and preteens. 

So, what I heard once was so helpful to me is don’t dig for pain, so if they’re not talking about it anymore, don’t dig for pain – they have moved on, and we need to move on from that too. 

But you’re getting back to something that triggered a lot of conflict in middle school, as you said, so there is some strife in the group. And something is going on between two members of a small social group. They all start talking to one person, talk to somebody else, and the other person talks to somebody else. 

Now the group is involved, and it feels like they’re being ghosted and gossiped about people talking behind their backs, so that scenario fueled a lot of drama. So, I put this in the same chapter, the chapter is gossip and drama, because I found those two very much tied together. 

So what I like to talk to kids about is different kinds of gossip. In middle school, it’s supernatural humans for us to know what’s going on with our peers. So there’s kind of informational gossip, which is like, who has a crush on who is fighting and who got expelled. 

But then there’s another kind of gossip, which people avoid, directly resolving conflict with somebody. So instead of directly resolving conflict, they’re venting and talking to others. So if we can help our kids see that and find a different safe space to talk it through because this is the first time they’ve dealt with it, they want to talk it through. 

They want to talk it through and process it out loud and maybe get some validation, but when that happens within that same social circle, they’re there to slice the drama. So just helping them navigate that in a way that doesn’t cause more drama in their group.

SHERYL:  This is why your book is so impactful. Is it help them to think through? How am I going to navigate when this happens, and kind of shine the light on it, because I don’t even think, as a young adult, that I knew what I was aware of what I was doing rather than an even as an adult, it’s hard to go to somebody and say, Wow, when you said that hurt my feelings. 

And I found that I usually misunderstood what they were saying. I just assumed even as an adult, but in my early 20s and roommates, rather than go to them, it was so easy to go to the other roommate and say, Can you believe that she did that? 

And so you’re teaching them how to do it early on in the book and to shine the light on becoming more aware of that.

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s such a great lifelong skill, and even choose it – you’re picking our battles? What are the relationships we care about that we want to ensure we address the things that come up? 

And what are the ones that aren’t meaningful relationships, even so, if there is some look that we thought was maybe threatening in the hallway, but that is not even a friend? Let it go like, do we even want to deal with that? So helping them pick their battles? 

And where is it important for them to be direct and ask and be curious and try to resolve things? And, then, what can we just let go of because it’s not even important to us?

SHERYL:  So good. What did you find the difference between what boys go through in middle school and girls? 

JESSICA: I didn’t find huge differences. I do think the girls talk more amongst themselves. But I think the experiences are fairly similar. So, when researching this book, I would meet with small groups and let kids write things down privately so I could get information in all sorts of ways. 

And I didn’t find huge differences, which is why all the quotes in the book don’t even attribute to a name or a gender. It’s just that somebody said this about this bout gossip or popularity. I wanted to share those voices. 

I wasn’t finding huge differences, maybe with girls. It might play out more because they are talking more to their girlfriends. We talked about trying to resolve things more in certain circumstances, venting to their friends, and talking through situations like that. 

I saw maybe a little bit less with boys. But all the kids were concerned with the same things. So that, to me, was interesting. I didn’t find the boys weren’t experiencing these things at all because they certainly were.

SHERYL:  I love that you’re saying that. Not that it’s a good thing. But thank you, because the boys tend not to talk as much about it. And it may look a little differently when they come home. And I know that many moms have heard since the pandemic that their sons just shut down. 

They’re not talking as much, maybe not hanging out with the same group, and knowing how to talk to their sons about it, where they’re not talking as much as the girls are. And how you even deal with that. 

What would you say about the mom with her sons shutting down? Is he maybe not hanging out with the same group? What have you found that have been boys saying what they would want when you were interviewing them?

JESSICA: Maybe because I was not a parent or their teacher, I was just there sincerely curious about their experience. So they shared with me, especially privately, when they wrote down notes when they didn’t have to speak in front of the group and wanted to share a personal story. 

So for parents, I would say kids know, and we’re digging, so back to that digging thing. So we must be careful not to come across like we’re digging, but just be curious and genuinely want to stay connected to them. 

Hey, that seems like that situation was tricky, or, Hey, I’m curious about this new friend group. What do you like about them? So I just stayed open-ended questions from a grounded, curious place and not assuming anything because I also noticed that some kids sail right through old middle school. 

And it’s awesome. They have a really small group of friends. They maintain those friends the whole way through. They kind of go around the whole drama thing. They don’t even experience that. And then others have a different experience. 

So as parents, let’s not assume they’re experiencing things they might not be. Things might be fine and flowing with them, and they’re not worried about it. It might just be us. 

So just noticing their moods and their behaviors. And just observing and staying curious and grounded. When we come across, like, we just want to connect and, and hear what’s going on in their life, we have a better chance of connecting than if we’re kind of digging – when it feels like we’re digging.

SHERYL:  I love that – I wrote it down and circled it twice. Don’t dig for pain. And being grounded because we find that even a lot of our childhood experiences and things that we struggled with, we tend to think that that’s our kid’s experience too. 

And, as you said, it might not be. We’re just assuming, and so we’re digging for it. And then sometimes we can send the message, not meaning to, but maybe something’s wrong. And it’s bigger. We can make it bigger than it needs to be so grounded. 

JESSICA: They’re gonna navigate things differently than we did, so back to the choose your ending, something that we might have struggled with in middle school. They might not – like that might not even be a thing for them because of who they are, their personality, and their interests. So, just follow them as they navigate and lead this experience.

SHERYL:  Yeah, I love that. And being curious, being curious. So talk about changing friendships, because I bet this is common as well where your kid was in a group, and then all of a sudden, they’re not in that same group, and we can tend to panic, why’s that? Did something happen? So what did you find in your research?

JESSICA: Yeah, changing friendships is tricky and weird and hard. And it is. But what helps parents, I find, is if we realize that that is kind of what happens in middle school, again, not for everybody, but it is a huge period of change. 

There was a study done at UCLA that followed 6000 kids through their first year of middle school, and two-thirds of them changed friendships. And so this can be unsettling for both the kids and the parents because we might think, Well, hey, you’ve been friends with them for so long. But it’s natural to happen in middle school for various reasons. 

As we know, kids are in such different developmental phases that some might still be interested in relationships based on play and fun, like elementary school, where some might be a little farther. They’re looking at deeper levels of connection and shared interests. 

I’ve seen something as simple as one friend’s way into crushes. And the other isn’t. That can cause a rift in that friendship, or one group is way into cell phones and social media, and somebody’s just not so. So those little things can shift friends and friendship groups as can dynamics so that you can have this friendship group, and someone else enters, it shifts up the whole dynamic. 

And that might break things apart, too. So just knowing this is normal, it happens. What’s happening is kids are figuring they’re starting to explore their own identities, they’re starting to figure out how to be a good friend, and they’re starting to figure out what to look for in friendship. And change is the norm. 

So just being okay with that, letting them navigate that now, I’m not saying it’s comfortable because we’re in the stage where more kids want to be accepted and belong more than anything. So if they’re amid a friendship change, that can feel unsettling for both the kids in the parent. 

So it’s not comfortable, but it’s normal. And what I’ve seen for the middle school years is they tend to eventually find a good fit. 

It might take a few groups and a few friendships, but they tend to find a friendship where they feel like it’s a good fit, and that’s what we want for our kids, right? We want our kids to have friendships that feel like a great safe place. Yeah, a place where they feel like they are accepted and belong.

SHERYL:  Yeah, I love being able to normalize that, and it’s interesting because they can sometimes go through where they’re not friends with a certain friend group. 

Still, then high school, they might come back into that, that friendship again, and I saw that with both of my daughters, maybe they decided they didn’t want to sit at that lunch table anymore. And then they’re back sitting with them in high school, navigating those different friendships and figuring out that we don’t panic. 

JESSICA: Yeah. And if and what we can do that is helpful as parents are, as they’re going through this, if we can avoid labeling kids out loud, well, she’s the what if she’s mean girl, or he’s the – because what I have seen now that I’ve got two kids in high school is, everybody changes so much.

What you said is true. They do come back around; they might be on the team with this person they were best friends with in fifth grade and then other teammates in high school, and they’re still kind of not good friends anymore. 

Still, they now have a different sort of relationship. So, if we as parents can stay out of the fray, label kids, and let this change happen, let these kids grow and change because they are different people, and by the time they get to high school, I’m always blown away. 

I’m like, Wow, that’s so and so because they’re so different, and they’ve learned, grown, and changed, as we all do, throughout our lives. But I feel like during these middle school years. It just happened so fast. There’s so much change going on, and it kind of settles out.

SHERYL:  And there’s so much change going on with us as we’re also trying to adapt to the transitions. And they’re pulling away. They maybe don’t talk as much as they’re in middle school. There are so many different things that we have to learn to navigate those transitions and set up their playdates. 

And that’s hard. We used to be able to make that happen. And now they’re choosing who they want to hang out with or not hang out with. So, many things are shifting for us as well as our parents. 

JESSICA: Oh, absolutely. And just navigating the moods. Yeah, what I’ve found helpful is that your moods are up and down quite a bit because they are amid puberty, and a lot is going on in their lives. So, if they’re in a bad mood, that’s when I especially ground myself, like, okay, they’re allowed to be in a bad mood, doesn’t mean they can be rude to me. 

But I allow them the space to be in a bad mood, and I don’t react to that and just settle myself and say, Hey, looks like it was a tough day. If there’s anything I can do, let me know. You’re just staying super grounded. I, more than anything, for my kids. I just want to be a safe space. So they know they can come to me when they need it.

SHERYL:  Yeah. Well, and it doesn’t work, does it if you try to talk them out of a bad mood? Yeah, I’m gonna all of a sudden be happy. So just allowing them to feel whatever they’re feeling and navigate what they’re navigating.  

Those are very wise, encouraging words. So, Jessica, I love your positivity. I just love, just your book. And I think it is a book every parent or caregiver needs to buy for their kids. Because it’s very unusual, and how you have the quizzes, and you have them thinking about how to work through that conflict. I don’t know of a book that’s been written like it.

JESSICA: It is it’s a different book. And to be honest, writing it felt like such a catharsis because it felt like, oh, okay, now I’ve got it. Now I get what was going on under the surface in middle school. So it was a joy to write. And it is a different book. But it kind of sets the groundwork for navigating all sorts of tricky social stuff throughout life, not only in middle school but throughout life.

SHERYL:  Yeah. Wonderful. Well, please tell them where to find you.

JESSICA: The easiest place to find me is my website, http://jessicaspeer.com/. And I’ve got resources. They’re both about social and emotional stuff for kids and parents. And links to my books, where they’re sold, and they are available anywhere books are sold, just sometimes your local indie might not have it. 

Still, I’m sure they would get it in, and I always love to shout out to our local independent bookstores because they’re just such a valuable part of our community. So your local independent bookstore can get it in, but it’s also available at Barnes and Noble, Target, and Amazon.

SHERYL:  Target too. That’s so exciting. Congratulations

JESSICA: Target.com Yeah, that is.

SHERYL:  Awesome. And you have a new book coming out, so we’ll have to wait this year because of what is happening around the digital world.

JESSICA: Yes, the new book that comes out this summer, 2023, is The Phone Book. Because once I got the middle school figured out, I thought, Okay, now the next tricky thing I want to tackle for preteens and teens is life with the phone because now our social world has, for kids especially, kind of moved into that realm. There’s a lot to talk about there.

So that book talks about privacy and digital drama, and misinformation and disinformation and cyberbullying, and all those conversations that we as parents want to have with our kids that have devices But, my specialty is talking right to the kids because kids are so smart, so I just like to give them the information directly.

SHERYL:  You also speak at schools, work with kids on these issues, and get them to talk back. I was reading some of your reviews, and just how comforting it is for the kids to know they’re not alone.  

I think for all of us to know we’re not alone in our challenges and struggles and something is not wrong with us, So you do that as well, and you’ve done online and stuff in person.

JESSICA: I always love to connect with classrooms and schools’ programs at the library, so if there’s any way I can jump in and help with that, one of my favorite things to do is be on the ground, working with kids, or speaking with parents.

SHERYL:  Wonderful Well, Jessica, thank you so much for coming on, And we’ll have to have you back once your new book comes out.

JESSICA: Well, thank you so much for having me, Sheryl. It was such a joy to chat with you.

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