Does the thought of sending your child off to middle school immediately make you anxious? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Many adults remember middle school as a nightmare – filled with social awkwardness, hormonal upheaval, and the added pressure of more responsibilities and a growing need for more independence.
Remember that? Now think of your child going off in that state to a bigger school, new systems and higher expectations. Whether it’s middle school or junior high, these practical tips can ease the transition into these middle years.
How to start now:
1. Help them prepare. Even if they’re excited, they’ve got to be at least a bit scared too, mostly because they don’t know what to expect. So help out with every opportunity to learn about what’s ahead. Summer transition courses, band and athletic camps, school tours and open houses can help them connect with other students and physically get them into the building. A sense of familiarity on that first day brings a big confidence-boosting advantage.
2. Remind them they’re not alone. About nine million American kids head off to middle school this year and it’s likely all of them are worried about finding classes, opening lockers and changing for gym. Share an experience from your past IF you don’t think it will add to the fear.
3. Focus on the positive. If they dread tough teachers, gently remind them that it’s a great opportunity to learn more. If they fear they won’t get to see friends from their old school, pump them up about meeting new friends.
4. Do the single most important thing you can ever possibly do to help your child start middle school. A long-time middle school principal insists this is buying a combination lock and having your child master it. This may sound like an exaggeration, but one of the biggest sources of anxiety for middle schoolers is the fear of being unable to open their locker. The ability to quickly open a combination lock will ease those fears and build confidence.
5. Get them tested. Cognitive skills testing is one of the most important assessments any child can take – especially if they struggle in school or with attention, memory, processing speed or other underlying mental skills. This assessment pinpoints weak skills which studies show cause 88 percent of learning struggles. LearningRx personalized one-on-one brain training is proven to strengthen these skills and increase IQ – an average of 15 points in just a few months. In addition to a faster, smarter, more efficient brain, brain training also prompts a big boost in self-esteem.
When the school year starts:
6. Send your child to school! Schedule vacation so you’re home in time for your child to attend the first day of school and early registration events.
7. Put them on the bus. If your child will normally ride the bus, make sure they’re on it that first day when rules and expectations are set. It will be much harder on them to be alone in the experience of newness on the second day when everyone else knows what to expect.
8. Master the online grading system. Let your child help you login and figure it out. Most schools have extensive systems to post grades, homework assignments and updates. Learning it together will ensure your child knows how to keep track and you don’t have to simply assume everything is ok.
Throughout the year:
9. Offer help when needed. At this age the frontal lobe – which controls strategizing, planning, organizing and decision-making, among other things – is still developing. So don’t worry that you’re “babying” a teen or tween who needs a little extra help getting organized or planning.
10. Don’t compare. In general, girls tend to mature earlier and their brains do too! Be patient if your son’s not as responsible as the neighbor girl. The first few weeks of middle school can be especially tough on boys academically. Parents are often shocked to realize their son keeps forgetting to turn in completed homework.
Most importantly, remember that you are the expert when it comes to raising your own child. By now you know what works, what sparks fireworks or tears, and how to walk the often ever-narrowing fine line of practical, peaceful and effective parenting in your own home. Before you know it your worries of middle school being a nightmare will be over, and you’ll be ready to tackle the next transition to prevent high school horrors!