Big changes are coming for rising middle schoolers and their families! They’re saying goodbye to Elmo, cubbies, and in-school parties and hello to pimples, puberty, and peer pressure. The excitement and anxiety are building as children take that huge step to middle school. Share these three tips with families of rising middle schoolers in your ministry:
Brave New World
Your kids will be experiencing several firsts as they pass through the doors of their new academic home. Help your child get comfortable with his new digs by scoping out the lay of the land. Find out how the school is organized, and ask for a tour with an older student or school personnel. Give your child the opportunity to get his bearings so he’ll feel at ease locating classes, the library, the gym, and cafeteria. Secondly, get a copy of your child’s class schedule and map out the places you’ve checked out. Tape this inside her binder. You also may want to note landmarks to jog her memory when navigating. Lastly, before school starts, buy your child a lock for her locker to give her plenty of time to practice opening and closing it.
Part of your preteen wants to grasp your hand for security while the other hand reaches ahead toward more independence. Being part of a group in the new school is essential. While he searches for his identity, encourage your child to take time deciding where he belongs before keying in on a particular bunch. Since middle school offers more opportunities for extracurricular activities, advise your child to join sports teams, clubs, or other events to help ease the social transition. Alleviate loneliness in the interim by arranging weekend activities with church, neighborhood, or grade-school friends. Give a little guidance on the social graces of group conversation; for example, demonstrate how to add something relevant to a conversation in progress without interrupting. Remind him to make eye contact when speaking or listening and tell him how words and actions can affect other people.
Upping the Stakes
Academic expectations increase in middle school. Students will have multiple teachers covering different subjects with less coddling. Your parental role shouldn’t change much. Take a look at the planner with assignments and make sure homework is completed, communicate with teachers, and help your child get organized. Develop a system for schoolwork and supplies. Create a binder or folder for each class so all notes and assignments will be readily available. Designate a study time and place that is free from distractions and where schoolwork should be finished each day.
Remember: while those first few weeks of adjustment can be nerve-wracking, keep an open dialogue as your child embraces another stage of maturity.
Bill Conger is a school counselor, member of Smithville First Baptist Church, a Gideon, and father of a 10-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter. Bill contributes regularly to ParentLife magazine where this and other great articles can be found.