The move from elementary school to middle school can feel like an enormous change to many children—and parents. Even if your kid attends a K-12 school, they may still move to a different building. At the very least, middle school students are likely to switch classrooms and teachers for each subject, and may have to contend with a locker for storing their books and personal items for the first time. On top of all those new responsibilities, middle school students are heading into the mentally and emotionally charged time of adolescence.
How can you help your child cope with all of these school transition changes? To start, here are a few ideas from parents like you.
Talk about how to handle what’s new.
Most children face each new school year with at least a little trepidation, but making the big leap to middle school means even bigger changes for your child. Questions of how to navigate school hallways and how to avoid tardies are likely weighing heavily on their minds. To handle logistical challenges such as these, walk through the scenarios with your child before school starts. Buy your child’s lock a few weeks early and practice opening it, read through a copy of the student handbook, and take a tour of school grounds over the summer.
If your child is not already using a planner or calendar to record homework assignments and projects, now is the time to help them develop the critical organizational skills required to keep track of tasks and deadlines. Instilling strong organizational skills at this age will not only smooth the transition to middle school, but it will also positively affect your child’s ability to store or retrieve information. Buying school supplies that promote organization such as binders, laying out supplies for the next day and making checklists are all easy steps to starting off the school year on the right foot.
Lay out your expectations.
With all the changes that accompany the move to middle school, your student may need to be reminded of all of your expectations regarding schoolwork, homework, grades and behavior. It is always better to have these conversations in advance, rather than waiting until the first report card appears.
Important questions to ask include: where are you now; where do you want to be; and how will you make it work? Allowing students to play a role in setting these goals will give them a sense of ownership, making progress towards these goals less of a chore. Once goals are set, following up on progress is the next important step in ensuring a successful transition. Grade trackers can be a helpful tool for parents to monitor progress throughout the year.
Developing a relationship with your child’s teacher or teachers eases the burden of the middle school transition on all sides. Correspondence between parents and teachers increases motivation in students, improves behavior and allows guardians to address minor problems before they become major ones. Doing so also lessens the possibility for miscommunication between students, parents and teachers. School open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and simple email correspondences are all easily available tools for establishing this relationship.