Children grow up incredibly fast, and before you know it, you find yourself facing the transition from elementary school to middle school. While you can barely remember your own experience becoming a middle schooler, it suddenly seems like a big deal when talking about your child. New school, new friends, new teachers. You may be looking at your child wondering if they’re ready. Are you?
Change is harder on some children, which naturally leads to greater worry and concern for parents. In these scenarios, preparing your child for the transition to middle school is important, to make sure they know what to expect. Here are a few tips.
1. Attend Campus Tours and Orientations
Shortly before school starts, you are likely to receive an invite to an orientation event or school tour for incoming middle grade students. These events are rarely mandatory but would give your child an opportunity to see the school, meet teachers and become a little more comfortable and confident.
2. Academic & Recreational Summer Programs
Many middle schools offer summer programs with academic or recreational courses, and while your child might not be thrilled about the idea of attending school on their summer break, it is an unbeatable way for children to make new friends and settle into a routine before school starts.
3. Schedules & Classroom Locations
For children who are nervous about starting middle school, or children who generally struggle with change and new environments, a bit of preparation can change their whole experience. Sit down with your child to go over the daily schedules and introduce them to how their days are going to be structured once school starts.
4. Sports Teams, Clubs & Extracurricular Activities
Making friends can seem like a daunting experience for a child who has just started middle school, and one way to set your children up for success is by enrolling them in a sports team or club related to any interest they may have and other extracurricular activities. These settings offer a natural environment for children to form like-minded friendships.
5. Discuss Social Skills
A child who knows how to communicate successfully with other children is more likely to make friends. Have a talk with your child where you discuss social skills, and emphasize how what we say and what we do (words and actions) can affect other people.
While your children are still young, middle school offers a different type of social setting where it is even more important to know how to communicate verbally, rather than express themselves with temper tantrums, screams and tears.
6. Teach Time Management
Middle school comes with more responsibilities for a child, and that can be hard to adjust to! Work out a schedule to help establish a routine where the child can see when it’s time to do chores, homework, take breaks, and get ready for bed. As adults, we have learned how to manage our time, but for a middle schooler, this may be completely new!
7. Close Contact with Teachers
Make sure you schedule meetings with the teachers early in the school year, as they can provide insight to your child’s progression as a middle schooler. There is a lot you won’t see as a parent, and staying in close contact with the school teachers will greatly benefit your child’s middle school education.
8. Encourage Open Communication
Build up your children's confidence by helping them learn how to stand up for themselves, and to trust in their own capabilities. As a parent, it is easy to want to do everything for our children, but kids also need to learn that they have the capacity to do things themselves.
Teach them that the key to solving any problem is communication, and that you are always there to step in and help when needed. New middle schoolers need to be given the opportunity to try things themselves and to feel like you trust them, but still have you to rely on if there is something they are unable to solve or manage.
9. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Middle school can be challenging, and it is a big step up from life in elementary school. As an adult, it can be hard to identify with the struggles of a middle schooler, especially since many of us struggle to remember what it was like, but it is essential to listen to your child and to take any concerns and issues seriously.
Your attitude, as a parent, is likely to affect your child’s experience. Avoid diminishing a middle schooler’s problems or brushing them off, and instead, listen to what your child has to say and focus on solutions rather than the problems themselves.
10. Patience & Time to Adjust
Be patient and give your child time to adjust to their new routine. Some kids walk through the school doors on their first day as if they would have been middle schoolers their whole lives, while others take days, weeks, or months to adjust.
Try not to compare your child’s progress to that of other children, as there is no set mold every child needs to fit into, and be there to offer support and guidance throughout the transition period.
No transition tends to be 100% smooth, and you want to expect there to be an adjustment period while your child settles into middle school. The best thing you can do for your child is to listen to their thoughts and concerns, offer help as needed and work to build up their confidence.
Talk about how it is okay to be nervous, and that while it might not seem like it - most other kids are probably feeling the same way. Be there for your child without undermining their growing need for independence.
Plan ahead and introduce your child to the school facilities, schedules, teachers and routines ahead of time, as this will help prepare for what is to come. When you know what to expect, where to go and who will be on the other side of the classroom door, it tends to lessen first-day anxiety for many children while also making it easier to adjust.