Tips For Being Involved In The Middle School Years

PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson

Sure, your middle schooler is showing you how much they want their independence by arguing with you and challenging you at every turn.  Your middle schooler has let you know that they want more space.  You expected some adolescent rebellion as part of the process of growing up and becoming an individual.  

Perhaps during the elementary school years your child came home and begged you to participate and volunteer at their school whenever you were able to be there.

 Now, your child doesn't want to be seen in public with you.  Add to this the way you may feel tired after all of the years of volunteering whenever you could during elementary school, and you just might feel like stepping totally back from being involved with your child during middle school.  There are many reasons why your middle schooler still needs you during this time of transition to adulthood.

You just need to take a different approach than you had in the past. Here are some tips on the best ways you can support your child through middle school.

Move Away From Being Hands-On With Help To Monitoring and Advising Instead   This is likely to be a shift over time, not a full sudden change.  During this rapid change of growth your child will be able to take on all kinds of responsibilities that they may not have been able to do before.  For example, where they may have needed you to walk with them to school, they are more likely to be able to walk to school on their own.

 Your child will be able to take on more and more tasks and become increasingly responsible for themselves through the middle grade years.

Help With Time Management and Organization Middle school is a time when there is a huge shift in a child's need to plan and organize their own schoolwork.  Students will have a variety of teachers instead of a single classroom teacher.

 Each teacher will be a little different in their expectations when they assign work and how it is to be completed.  Additionally, middle schools give more homework and tests than elementary schools.  Middle schoolers are assigned lockers for the materials, yet are given less time and instruction for organizing and maintaining their lockers.  All of this adds up to a monumental increase in the need to manage time organize their materials.  

You can support your child by attending any middle school orientations and finding out what the school and each teacher expects in terms of organization and homework completion.  Take advantage of any communication opportunities that is provided to parents, such as weekly emails, newsletters, and online grade portals.  You will want this information so that you can monitor and advise your child in completing their work.

Before school starts, get the materials that are on the school supply list.  You may also want to consider locker organizers, extra tabs and a student planner if the school does not provide one to each student.

Many middle schools require students to use a paper planner to keep track of assignments.  Be sure to check your child's planner regularly.  If nothing is written in it, follow up by checking with your child's teachers to see if they should have assignments recorded in their planner.

Be Nearby Without Hovering  Your middle schooler may want and need more independence, but despite their sometimes snarly attitude, they still love you and need you nearby.  Learn to step back and give them space without being directly involved at all times.  Rather than chaperoning your child's specific group on a field trip, you can chaperone a different group of children.  Getting involved with the PTA/PTO can provide opportunities to be involved in supporting the school by attending city council meetings or seeking donations from local businesses instead of being a classroom volunteer.

When it comes to homework, most middle schoolers are not ready to do their homework in their rooms totally away from supervision.  It is just too easy for them to get distracted by anything other than their school work.  Keep them nearby and have them do their homework at the kitchen table or other location of the home where you are at, but not with you sitting next to them.  

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