Let’s face it, making the transition from elementary to middle school can be downright terrifying for some children. It can also be a terrifying time for parents as well. We wonder if they are ready, if they are going to have any problems making new friends, how they are going to handle changing classes, the extra homework.
Take a deep breath, parents, and check out our tips below on how you can help your child make the transition with flying colors!
Prepare Ahead of Time
Our household has a summer schedule and a school schedule. During the summer, we are very relaxed, and our schedule is pretty much anything goes. Our school schedule though is organized and planned down to the minute. Do not wait until a day or two before school begins to switch schedules on your child. (Been there, done that, epic fail.) Begin three to four weeks in advance, and gradually make changes in the family schedule in increments of 15 minutes. For example, if bedtime during the summer is 10pm and during the school year it is 8pm, begin reducing bedtime to 9:45pm, then 9:30pm, etc. until you reach your desired schedule.
- Visit the New School. Giving your child the opportunity to walk around their new school and get familiar with where his or her classroom will be is vital for a smooth transition. Don’t let your child be a target for upperclassmen who pull pranks and send kids to the weight room when they are trying to find their math class. (Yes, parents, it does really happen.)
- Go to Orientation. Usually a week or two before school begins, your child’s school will have a back-to-school night or orientation night. Clear your schedule and go. You will have the opportunity to meet your child’s teachers, and help your student find all their classrooms. Most schools keep each grade level in a particular hall or annex with the common areas (such as the auditorium, gym, nurse’s office, etc.) in a central location, so your child won’t have troubles finding classes scattered around the entire school.
- Include Your Child in Routine Planning. When you begin transitioning from the summer schedule to the school schedule – talk to your children about the transition and preparing for school. Explain to them what they can expect from middle school (homework, clubs, after-school activities) and get them to take part in the process of planning the evening. It will help to give them a sense of control over their routine.
Be An Example For Your Child
Keep a positive attitude when you are talking with your child about beginning middle school. Focus on the positive aspects – meeting new people, making new friends, participating in after-school clubs and activities, participating in the various athletic programs, band, chorus or art programs. Focus on the things that interest your child to get them excited about middle school.
It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your child. Remain upbeat and optimistic, but also let them know that they can talk to you if they are nervous or scared. Reassure them that these feelings are completely normal, and that they will become comfortable with their new surroundings within a few weeks.
Be An Active Volunteer At Your Child’s School
I know that not everyone has the opportunity to volunteer for a few hours during the week at their child’s school. I know I was not able to volunteer at my daughter’s schools when she was growing up and working a full-time job. If you are a stay-at-home/work-at-home parent; however, it is possible to volunteer at their school.
Get to Know Your Child’s Teachers. During orientation or back-to-school night, get to know your child’s teachers. Let’s be real. Kids hate their teachers. Teachers know that the majority of the kids will hate them for the amount of homework that they give or some other reason. Especially in middle school, with larger classrooms and less individualized attention, it is important that you know your child’s teachers and make them aware of any special needs your child might have, their strengths and weaknesses, so that the teacher can build a genuine rapport with your child to help make the year go smoothly.
Volunteer for the PTA or Boosters. I have been a board member of our middle school’s Boosters program for the past three years, and I currently signed on to be the Membership Chairperson on the board of the high school’s parent teacher student association. Once my boys have completed school, I will have served six years at the middle school on the Boosters committee and eight years on the PTSA at the high school.
Each of these board positions require two hours, once a month for meetings. In addition, we have a presence at back-to-school and orientation nights, as well as several other school functions throughout the year. We participate in hosting “welcome back” breakfasts for the staff and teachers. It is a great opportunity to meet other parents (especially if you don’t get out often!) and to help bring about positive changes in your child’s school.
Know What Is Happening With Your Child
Let’s face it. Gone are the Tuesday folders that used to come home with your child packed full of school information, upcoming events, all of their completed classwork and homework for the week. Those days are OVER. You need to become a part-time detective if you want to know what’s going on now.
- Register for Email Updates from the School. If you want to stay informed about what is happening with your child, most schools take part in an E-Connect program where you can sign up to receive email updates on school happenings. Usually, all the teachers, coaches and club leaders will give information to the principal of the school who will in turn send out these E-Connect messages to all the parents who have signed up. Don’t wait for your child to bring home that flyer about the upcoming band trip to Florida and the need for you to pay $400 for your child to attend. It’s not going to happen.
- Check Your Child’s Progress Online. Our school system uses the PowerSchool platform and prior to that the Blackboard Learn system. Teachers do not have the time to email every single student’s parents individually about class projects, assignments, etc. Your kids are not going to tell you if they got an “F” on the math quiz on Tuesday. These systems allow the teachers to in-put grades and for parents to read them in real-time. If your school is not using either of these systems, I highly recommend that you ask that they do. It is extremely beneficial for both the teachers and the parents.
The most important thing you can do to help your child transition from elementary school to middle school is to just talk to them. Let them know that it is okay to be nervous and a little scared and then help them to see the excitement of being able to start fresh in a new school.
Keep the lines of communication open with your child, with their teachers, and with administrators and you and your child will have an excellent foundation for the beginning of a wonderful, exciting, new chapter of their lives!
- Back to school: 10 things teachers want parents to know about connecting with them (oregonlive.com)
- Four Ways to Relieve your Child’s Back-to-School Anxiety (counselheal.com)
- Beyond back-to-school basics: Are you meeting your pre-teen’s emotional needs? (whnt.com)
- 5 School Volunteering Tips for Busy Parents (schoolfamily.com)
- Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework – Dana Goldstein – The Atlantic (theatlantic.com)
- 7 Tips to Start the School Year with a Bang (mathsp.com)