Going to middle school is a big change, and even though your child may be excited, there’s also probably some anxiety about moving up to the next level. This Scholastic article notes that some of the common fears that kids have about starting middle school. Parents can support their children by taking kids’ concerns seriously and, as much as possible, being proactive before the school year begins so that the transition is a smooth one. Read the following five tips that you can use to help prepare you and your child to make the move to middle school.
visit the school website
One of the first things you can do is to visit the school website. The school's website will provide information on its academics, programs, athletics, student life, and more. If possible, set up a time for you and your child to contact the admission department to get a personalized virtual tour.
In middle school, students will have more classes, more long-term assignments and projects, and more responsibility than they did in elementary school. Some children thrive with that increased independence, but others need a little more support. You can set your child up for success by helping to find organizational strategies that work for him or her. Your child’s teachers will suggest organizational strategies as well. Once school starts, have your child talk to his/her teachers if more support is needed in determining an effective management system. Keep in mind that middle school students find varying levels of success with a wide range of organizational strategies. Teachers know this and are happy to be flexible and supportive as students work to find the strategies that work best for them. Need some tips on how to get started? Check out Scholastic’s “Mission: Organization” article for advice.
Prepare For Academic Changes
While it’s true that middle school work will be more challenging, you don’t want your child to feel overwhelmed by the new academic demands. Before the year starts, be sure to have your child complete any summer reading or projects that were assigned so that he or she doesn’t start the year out feeling left behind. As the year continues, make sure your child has a consistent homework and studying routine. Encourage your child to communicate with teachers–either in person or by sending an email–if questions arise. Self-advocacy skills will benefit your child long after middle school, so spend some time teaching your child how to ask for additional help when feeling overwhelmed with assignments that are challenging or assessment preparation that seems too complicated.
Know That Friendships Will Change
Tweens and teens are still in the process of figuring out who they are, and that can mean kids who were best friends in elementary school can grow apart in middle school. You can help prepare kids for this by getting them excited about all of the new students that they’ll meet in middle school. Make sure your child has opportunities to connect with other kids by participating in extracurricular activities or even inviting one or two kids to hang out over the weekend. If you notice your child seems to be having trouble maintaining friendships, you may want to reach out to the middle school counselor to brainstorm ideas about how to help.
Make Yourself Available
It’s important for your child to know that you will be there to support them through all of the changes that middle school will bring. Be sure to continue–or start!–traditions like Family Movie Night or Family Board Game Night so your child can remember that family connections are still a priority. In addition, ensure your child knows that you are available to listen when they want to talk and that you can either just be a sounding board for venting or a partner in finding a solution to a problem. Change can be exciting but also slightly overwhelming, so as your child prepares to enter middle school, we hope these tips help you think about ways you can ease the anxiety for both you and your child.
At Sanford, we have a full-time school counselor at the middle school level to provide support for all of our students to help them transition from elementary to middle school. Sanford provides a nurturing community for students to succeed.
Courtney Gregor is the Middle School Counselor & Learning Services Coordinator. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Franklin and Marshall College and a master's degree in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a National Counselors Certification. Additionally, she is the head swim coach at Sanford.