To some parents the task of preparing a child for middle school seems daunting. Many of us remember this as a time of transition, sometimes emotionally or scholastically painful, for which we were not always prepared. Kids go from being the big kids, either 5th or 6th graders on a relatively small campus, to the little kids on a big campus. Middle school class ranges can vary. Some start at grade six and progress to grade eight, some are 7-8, or 7-9.
It’s important to remember what your middle school experience was like, but not to impose a negative personal middle school experience on your child. If you speak of the time with dread or fear, your child is likely to fear this transition to and respond more negatively to the changes. Yet at the same time, you should definitely, when a child is in the middle of the grade before middle school starts, begin initiating conversations about some of the expected changes.
You can let your child know that he or she will be dealing with up to six different teachers, and wisdom suggests helping your child learn how to advocate with his current classroom teacher. While you still want to remain involved in school, attempt to allow your child to resolve small disputes, or attend a grievance session with your child and sit back to allow them to state their issues.
A few other helpful things for children to know:
- They can expect to see a few friends during classes but not all of them.
- They will have greater responsibilities, such as keeping their work organized and remembering to turn in assignments.
- There is usually more homework.
- Different teachers may have different expectations, and you will involve yourself when they request to help them solve problems.
You can also let kids know:
- More people mean more opportunities to start new friendships.
- Greater responsibility means teachers and parents know the student is getting older and more mature.
- There are often excellent opportunities to closely pursue interests in hobbies or activities like art, music, drama, crafts and a variety of other elective subjects.
Parents can act as a sounding board for students, hearing their anxieties, concerns or excitement about middle school and helping them as needed. If children express particular anxiety about attending middle school, make an appointment with your child’s middle school counselor before school begins. Sometimes a short meeting with a school counselor can help alleviate concerns or fears, and the student can learn what a valuable resource access to a counselor is.
Middle school campuses often have orientations for incoming students and also visit each elementary campus to talk to fifth or sixth graders. It’s important that your child attend these visits, and orientations, since it can be so much more challenging if a middle school is completely new. Also, plan on attending back to school nights so you can meet your child’s teachers. This will help your child should you need to communicate with teachers about anything during the year.
If possible, you should you read dress code laws before buying new school clothes. Also if your child is fashion conscious, he or she might want to use the first few days of middle school to scope out what’s fashionable. It can be hard to attend middle school if your new clothes mark you as different from the other children.
If your middle school doesn’t offer an orientation, spend some time a few days before school begins letting your child get familiar with the campus. Even if he or she has been to an orientation this is a good idea. If you have a class schedule, you can help your child find all his/her classes and locker. You can even have a few quizzes on when breaks occur, or remembering the order of classes. It may be helpful to bring a friend along on these exploration trips, since your child may feel less alone when he knows a fellow pal has to do and learn the same things.