Getting Ready for Middle School
you have a child who is about to leave the elementary school years
behind and enter middle school, here are some tips to help your
child (and you) adjust to the changes.
changes can you expect? Think: Physical, social, emotional, and
academic. In short, new experiences are coming.
what a difference a year makes. In fifth grade, your child probably
knew most of the kids in her class since kindergarten. She had one
teacher for all subjects, and remained in the same classroom throughout
the day. Her homework likely didn't require an excessive amount
of long-term planning or advanced time management skills. There's
also a good chance that she eagerly asked you to volunteer as a
chaperone for the end-of-the-year school field trip.
to sixth grade. Because most middle schools enroll students from
a variety of elementary schools, it is possible that your child
won't recognize many of the faces in her homeroom class. Each of
her subjects will be taught in a different classroom, some in different
buildings. The amount of homework will multiply, and require more
complex reasoning and organizational skills. And because these years
mark a significant leap towards independence as well as an increased
interest in peer relationships, chances are your pre-teen won't
be asking you to chaperone the school dance anytime soon.
don't panic. While the transition from elementary to middle school
can feel overwhelming -for kids and their parents- it truly is an
incredible time of growth and discovery. And there are many things
you can do to ease the transition and embrace the many changes that
and listen. You're not the only one who's wondering what middle
school life will be like. Your child probably has many questions
and maybe some concerns. Ask what she is most excited about, what
she worries about, and how you can help. Talking about the experience
is the first step in easing the transition. If she feels apprehensive,
assure her that her feelings are normal. And remind her that, while
change can be scary, it can also be exciting.
informed. Your bookshelves may be lined with books about the
physical and emotional life of an elementary school age child, but
much of that information no longer applies. Learn about pre-teen
behavior so you have realistic expectations and develop useful parenting
strategies. Parenting classes, offered by universities, community
centers, churches and synagogues could provide helpful information
ahead. Attend the middle school orientation with your child.
When she receives her schedule, encourage her to take a few practice
runs walking from class to class so she can become familiar with
the school and where her classes are located. Be sure she also knows
how to find the front office, the lunchroom, the bathrooms and the
responsibility. In middle school, your child will be assuming
more responsibilities than ever before. She will need to learn her
daily schedule, get to her classrooms on time, bring appropriate
school supplies and books to class, and organize her study time
so she can complete projects and assignments. At home, provide the
tools and the support to help her get organized. Help her learn
how to use a day planner and identify a quiet place where she can
available. During the middle school years, it is typical for
children to place greater emphasis on peers than parents. Hang in
there and don't take it personally. Instead, remain involved and
available in her life. Find opportunities to spend time together
and talk about the things that are important to her. Daily activities
such as eating a snack or driving to an after-school program can
provide meaningful moments for the two of you to talk and connect.
involved. Research indicates that when parents are actively
involved in their child's education, they do better in school. Plan
to get involved in your child's middle school. While your days of
volunteering in the classroom may be over, you can help with a school
committee or join the Parent-Teacher Association. Get to know her
teachers, guidance counselor and friends.
support, when indicated. If you have concerns about your child's
adjustment to middle school, discuss them with a school counselor
or family health care provider.
when you can. While there are many serious issues associated
with entering middle school and the "'tween" years, there
are plenty of joyful ones, too. Laugh when you can and try not to
sweat the small stuff. Don't expect perfection- in yourself or your
growing child. Enjoy this time.
Glasser, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of
NewsForParents.org. She is the author of "Positive Parenting,"
a weekly feature of the Miami Herald.