Getting Children Ready for Middle School

Tips for Parents of Children Going to Middle School for the First Time

Girl standing outside school with group of friends
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For children going into middle school, there are many anxieties, apprehensions and fears to deal with and overcome. Middle schools are larger than elementary schools, the work is more challenging, and peer pressures are greatly amplified as kids start to approach puberty. If you have a child who is entering middle school for the first time, know that it is normal for your child to express concern, either overtly and directly, or more subtly by acting out or behaving differently than his normal self.

How to Help Your Child Through This Transition

  • Don't be too anxious about your child going to middle school. She will take clues from you and if you a consistently talking to other parents about how worried you are, she will hear you. While you want to validate any fears she has and treat them seriously, you don't want to create anxiety where there isn't any. Let her know that you know this is a big change, but that you have confidence in her and will be there to offer support.
  • Teach him daily organizational habits like checking an assignment sheet before leaving his locker every day or packing up his book bag the night before to be sure he has everything he needs for the next day. Just as very young children thrive on routines, pre-adolescent and adolescent children also find comfort in the familiar.
  • Post his weekly schedule on the refrigerator, so that you and he can get familiar with which days are band practice, gym, etc. This will help you to help him with reminders, so he goes to school prepared for what that day's schedule will bring. 
  • Encourage him to get involved in school activities, but don't push too hard if your child is introverted. There will be plenty of pressure to join peer groups at school, so be cognizant of what opportunities exist, but let him make the decisions. And when he does join a group, be available for games and shows, etc. Even though he may outwardly cringe at seeing you at a game or an event, he will be glad you're there, so try to have a parent present whenever possible. 

  • Go to any meetings or parenting classes your child’s school offers. Most middle schools offer a class for parents whose children are transitioning from elementary school to middle school. Use this resource.
  • Openly communicate to your preteen child that you are available to help him with whatever he needs. While you may feel that your child knows this already, now is a good time to remind him. And keep reminding him. There's no harm in reinforcing your support at a time when your child is likely to be feeling vulnerable.
  • Do not be afraid to communicate with your child’s middle school administrators and teachers. They are there to help, and will value input and feedback from involved parents. 
  • Finally, don't be hurt if your child needs to demonstrate his independence during this transition. It's a tough thing to figure out all the social norms that have changed so much since elementary school. Give him a little space to get comfortable in his new environment.

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