272. Middle School Matters with Phyllis Fagell

Parenting books and research on kids often lump middle schoolers together with young elementary school kids or older adolescents. This obscures the fact that middle school is its own distinct phase. Join Jill as she talks with therapist, school counselor, and middle school expert, Phyllis Fagell, about the unique challenges middle schoolers face and how parents can help them build key skills to thrive. Fagell sees middle school as parents’ “last best chance” to influence their kids at a time when they are still impressionable and still really care what their parents think. 

Listen and Learn:

  • What Yael’s friends and son shared were their greatest middle school challenges
  • Why middle school matters—what is unique about this development stage and why we should attend to it
  • How we can encourage critical thinking in middle schoolers using hypothetical scenarios
  • The importance of purpose, what purpose really means, and how to help kids connect with theirs
  • Why kids tell lies and how to handle it when they do
  • How to manage tough questions about sex, drugs, and other challenging topics
  • The difference between bullying and other interpersonal challenges and when to intervene vs letting kids work things out on their own

About Phyllis Fagell

Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC is the school counselor at Sheridan School in Washington, DC, a therapist who works with kids and families in private practice, and an author and journalist. She’s the author of “Middle School Matters” and a frequent contributor to the Washington Post. She also freelances for publications including Psychology Today, CNN, Working Mother, U.S. News & World Report and Your Teen, and her ideas have been shared in outlets including The New York Times,The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Edutopia, Mindshift and NPR. Phyllis currently is working on her next book, “Middle School Superpowers, Raising Resilient Tweens in Turbulent Times,” (Hachette, August ’23). She lives in Bethesda, MD with her husband and three children.


Phyllis’s website and sign up for her newsletter:

Phyllis’s twitter: @pfagell

Related Episodes

Offers and Events:

The way we approach and treat trauma has been evolving – even in just the last several years. The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) has interviewed the top experts in the treatment of trauma and narrowed down hours of interviews to a carefully curated training program. Each week, all the experts focus on a single topic in trauma treatment. It’s free to watch the weekly course broadcasts, you just have to sign up at Or, you can purchase the Gold Package to own the complete program (with transcripts, video and audio downloads and bonuses) at 50% off the normal price!

Join the discussion

Instagram feed @offtheclockpsych

Instagram has returned empty data. Please authorize your Instagram account in the plugin settings .


Episode 272