The transition to middle school occurs at a time when children are transitioning to adolescence. The preteen years can be stressful for children as their bodies prepare for puberty.
“These also are years when children become very focused on being accepted by their peers,” notes LSU AgCenter family and child development expert Dr. Linda Robinson.
“With this combination of changes, parents can expect some challenges in the adjustment to middle school,” Robinson points out.
Talk to your ’tween. In talking with your child about starting middle school, listen for questions, concerns and anxieties. Reassure your child that any feelings of anxiety or concern are normal at this age and that you have confidence he or she is learning how to handle new situations.
“Also reassure your child that you are there whenever he or she needs your guidance,” Robinson advises. Help your child find ways to participate in activities he or she finds interesting and stimulating.
Be careful that you do not burden your child with your own anxieties about middle school; those feelings should be shared with other adults privately. Just as you may benefit by sharing your anxieties with other adults, so, too, may your child benefit from sharing concerns with older youth who were successful in middle school or with friends who will be going to middle school for the first time as well.
Get yourselves acclimated. With our hectic schedules, it often is difficult to find time to get involved in your child’s school. Establishing a relationship with your child’s teachers, however, is an important factor in school success. Look for an orientation for entering students and their parents before or early in the semester. At this time and during the school year, be sure to get in touch with your child’s teachers when you have questions or concerns.
Leave time for transition. It usually takes a couple of weeks for children to adjust to being back in school. Help your child prepare ahead of time by establishing limits such as bedtime, homework and TV or computer time.
Adjust to the academics. Most likely, your child will have a greater workload in middle school and increased expectations for responsibility. Help your child organize his or her assignments, work space and time.
If you think your child is struggling with these new expectations, talk with the teacher to see what help may be available. Try to ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to talk about how things are going at school, such as “What was the most interesting thing your learned about today?” Or, “I’m not sure I understand about (such and such); what does it mean?”
Editor: Mark Claesgens