Parents guide their children through many aspects of life, but helping a child transition to middle school can be particularly challenging. A student at the middle school level has to navigate a new world of organizing, socializing, and independence, in addition to all the physical changes he or she is dealing with. Parents can help by easing these challenges both before and during the school year.
TRANSITIONING TO MIDDLE SCHOOL – THE SUMMER BEFORE
One of the biggest challenges for a child entering a new school, particularly a middle school, can simply be the logistics of getting around. Where once there was just one classroom, one teacher, and one set of classmates, there is now a multitude of each – all in their own location and all with their own demands. Before school starts, parents can ease their student’s anxiety by taking him or her on school tours, signing up for summer programs that might be offered there, and using maps and the student’s schedule to help figure out where and when he or she will need to be.
Because the transition to middle school can sometimes mean losing friends that aren’t going on to the same school or don’t have the same schedules, it’s important that a child knows how to socialize with new people in a new environment. In addition to talking to him or her about how to be a good listener, a good participator, and a good friend, signing your child up for summer activities can increase his or her confidence in meeting others in new situations. It also gives him or her the chance to make friends outside of school, which can help your child find new perspectives on life.
Independence can be a slightly trickier challenge, particularly because so many parents, understandably, want to jump in and help their child whenever they can. However, for the long-term benefit of your child, staying connected without taking away the lessons that come with responsibility is an important balance. Finding out and connecting with your child’s teachers before diving into the school year can allow you to inform the teacher about any particular strengths and weaknesses your student might have. It will help to set both student and teacher up for a successful relationship, hopefully one that will not require a parent’s interference. This is also true for the school counselor, who can be a great firsthand advocate for your child’s success.
Parents can do a great deal to help their child transition to middle school during the summer, but it’s equally important to help them in the beginning weeks of school.
TRANSITIONING TO MIDDLE SCHOOL – DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR
The demands and stress of elementary school are nothing compared to the workload that comes with middle school. To get a good handle on the work, a student needs time to adjust, but also the right tools to stay on top of it. Parents can schedule study times and break times to allow their student a good balance of work and release. It’s important for the parents not to stress either, since grades and moods may swing with all the new adjusting, and children will need time and support to figure out their new world.
Just as in the summertime, encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities in and out of school. Outside of school friends will still give them new perspectives and an outlet if things go array at school, but in school friends, particularly those in activities of your child’s choosing, will allow him or her to meet others with similar interests. Additionally, these are students he or she would not otherwise socialize with, whether because of different class schedules or because they’re in a different grade.
As with any new process, there will questions and misunderstandings, and probably some failures along the way. Giving your child the room to ask, fix, and deal with all of these things are what make him or her gain independence. If your student has a question about homework, he or she should ask the teacher about it. Help him or her write the email if necessary, but allow your child to send it. If an assignment is missed or late, or incorrect, it should be up to your child and teacher to work it out. This doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t follow up, especially in the beginning, but give your child the chance to correct it on his or her own. Additionally, many schools have online management for their students where parents can see grades, attendance, and assignments. This is a great tool for seeing your child’s progress and to help organize in the beginning, but ultimately it should be up to your child to make sure he or she knows how to turn things in on time and to learn the consequences when he or she doesn’t.
As always, a child’s transition into middle school can be scary, exciting, stressful, and full of wonder for both a parent and their child. Reducing the scary and stressful parts to a manageable level will hopefully help to make middle school more exciting and full of wonderful memories for you and your child. What do you remember being the least or most prepared for with middle school, and is it something that you’ll apply to your child’s experience?
Author: Celeste Irving, Writer & Editor, MathWizard, Inc.