Tips for Helping your Child Transition to Middle School

Tips for Helping your Child Transition to Middle School

As the summer comes to an end, kids across the country are making the move from elementary school to middle school. If your child is about to step into a middle school for the first time, they are probably experiencing a mixture of nervousness, fear, sadness, and excitement. This is a time when kids are beginning to make the jump from childhood to adulthood. Your role as a parent is to find a balance of support, guidance, structure and discipline at this emotional time for your child. Below are some tips to help you and your child through the process.

Tip 1 – Be prepared

Get a list of school supplies from the school and make sure your child knows how to use them. Read the instruction manuals and practice together so your child builds confidence with any unfamiliar items, like the expensive calculator or combination lock. If the school has an orientation day, your child should attend and locate their classrooms. If your child needs extra time, ask the school for an additional tour. Ensure you both understand the new class schedule, the school code of conduct, the dress code and school rules.

Preparation also applies to new school clothes and styles. This is the sensitive age where kids are very concerned with being popular, having friends, not standing out, and not being labelled as a “loser.” They may also be concerned about making a good impression on teachers. New stylish clothes, a new haircut or a name brand back-pack can help boost your child confidence when entering a new setting.

Tip 2 – Communicate with your child and school staff

Children at this age may be transparent, or they might be closed books. Budding independence can make it hard for them to accept a parent’s advice. Even if this is the case, it’s important to get a dialogue going with your child about the changes they are about to go through. Their school, classes, homework, teachers, peers and activities are all going to be different. Having someone to talk to and hear their fears can help alleviate some of the stress.

As a parent it’s also important to get a dialogue going with school staff. Counselors and teachers will likely contact parents if there are outstanding issues, but don’t be shy about checking. Middle school means that students now have multiple teachers and must learn to multi-task in a way that is very different from elementary school. In addition, the frequency and level of communication between parents and teachers will be different from elementary school because students are expected to work more independently. If your child is struggling with a class or has begun to have behavior issues, reach out to that guidance counselor or teacher. It is better to find out early so you can take supportive steps.

Tip 3 – Get your child involved

If your child is on a local sports team, in a school club, or in a community program, they may feel more connected with their peers and feel like they are fitting in. Dr. Sharon Sevier, a Licensed Professional Counselor, advises that a child has a large group of varied friendships. This means they have different circles of friends, including some from activities outside of school. That way, if friendships at school aren’t going smoothly, they have other friends to hang out with and still feel included.

Tip 4 – Balancing independence and guidance

Some parents struggle with the question of how much independence to allow during middle school. On one hand parents should not let go completely because learning to be independent is a process and children still need support. On the other hand, children need to be held accountable and learn to take responsibility for their behaviors. If a child has flunked a major test because he/she did not take the time to study properly, then parents might help a child establish a study plan that includes a regular time each day for review. The purpose is not to punish, but to give the child some structure in an area he/she is not yet ready to handle independently.

The transition to middle school is a challenging time for both students and parents. If you would like to speak to a family therapist about how you can best support your child during this time, contact us at Family and Child Development.