Psst! Did you hear about Emily and Olivia? Oh my gosh! They had the biggest fight ever. And Ryan started the whole thing! Everybody’s talking about it!

And so goes the story heard round the school.

Measly kid stuff . . . unless you’re Emily. You lucky parents better be all ears and ready for tears.

Related Reading: A Parent’s Survival Guide to Middle School

Put any sixth-grade class up against the latest hit reality show and you’ve got yourself a real contest. Help your preteen tone things down a bit—and maybe even enjoy life a whole lot more—with these simple tips.

1. Be aware.

The first year of middle school means 24/7 crisis mode for your kid. We’re talking fights with friends, a confusing and frustrating interest in the opposite sex and the desperate attempt to fit in without looking like they’re trying to fit in.

And bless their hearts with those bodies. By the time next August rolls around, your preteen will grow roughly three inches and gain about ten pounds. Hormones will bring unwelcome surprises like acne and mood swings and awkwardness galore.

To make matters even worse, girls may begin menstruation and boys will notice that girls are outpacing them in pretty much every area of development. The changes are so obvious—so very visible—that it’s enough to make even the hormone-regulated among us sweat.

The key here isn’t to aggressively point out these changes but to simply be aware. Know what’s coming your way. Decide ahead of time to relax during delicate conversations. Smile, listen, encourage, advise. Remember: you made it through and so will your kid.

2. Make your home a haven.

Let’s just call it like it is. Sixth grade beats up on kids and parents alike. While your son or daughter deals with drama all day at school, you take the nights and weekend shift.

Slammed doors, tears, and yelling—many preteens save their worst behavior for home. Still, and hear us out on this one, you must fight to make your home a safe place your sixth grader.

That’s because no phase of life has less consistency. 11-year-olds straddle lots of lines on the journey from being a kid to becoming a teen. A home that offers good food, plenty of rest, lots of fun, and an overabundance of affirmation is hands-down the best place for sixth graders to figure everything out.

It really is that simple. And that powerful. So we’ll say it again. Make your home a haven: a safe and nurturing place

Resource: Don’t Miss It: Parent Every Week Like It Counts

3. Find people they can trust.

Good luck getting preteens to say this out loud, but these guys and gals actually crave influence from adults who aren’t their parents.

And while it might sting a little, they need a safe place, outside of the home, to talk about their feelings and their struggles at school.

So help them find other adults they can trust—a small group leader, a family friend, a teacher, a coach—who will let them be themselves, who they can talk to, and even have fun with, without the risk of rejection. Build a tribe of people around them who will help you guide them and answer the biggest question they will ask this year, “Who cares?”

Navigating all the ups and downs and the changing tide of emotions may wear you down and leave you wondering if you and your sixth grader will ever make it through the middle school years. But just remember: It’s just a phase, so don’t miss it.

As you push through, prove to your sixth grader how much they’re worth by loving them through the changes and showing up through all of the drama. And keep affirming them in their journey so there will never be any doubt . . . who cares.

Additional Reading: Being Present During the Awkward Years