One day you are dropping off your sweet baby to their kindergarten class, book bag full of crayons, glue sticks, and apple sauce. Before you know it, you are headed to middle school with an adolescent in the middle of puberty, trying to find their place in this world.
The transition from elementary to middle school can be overwhelming and daunting. It is a huge change for kids and mamas. Students go from having one or two loving, caring teachers, who have to be responsible for maybe 60 to 70 students, to a middle school where they have six maybe seven teachers, who are now responsible for HUNDREDS of children.
Many times, students lose recess and gain classes with no familiar faces. It is hard for all of us! I have been a middle school educator for 15 years, so I have some pointers for you to make this transition much smoother.
Attend School Events
Try your best to make sure your student attends school events. Most schools will hold an open house or even have a day or week designated for just their sixth grade students to get acclimated to the building. It will really help them feel more comfortable. They usually give tours of the building and students and parents can meet their teachers. It will be beneficial to put a face with a name and to learn how to navigate the new building.
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Email your student’s teachers right away. As stated before, middle school educators are responsible for more than 100 students. It’s hard keeping up with the needs of every child, so be sure you, as the parent, build a relationship with the teachers right away, and let them know you plan to be engaged and present for your kiddo. Email tends to be the easiest way to get in contact with teachers because most of their day is spent teaching and access to a phone is limited.
Practice Using a Lock
Many middle schools have lockers. This might be the first time your student has to open one. Practice at home with a lock before school starts so they won’t be completely oblivious. This could be one less thing for them to worry about on their first day.
Use a Planner
The transition from having a couple teachers in elementary to having six or seven in middle can be challenging. Students are now responsible for classwork/homework in seven new classes, and it can be difficult to keep up. If they haven’t used a planner in the past, start practicing.
What I’ve found is writing down what they did in class and any work that needs to be completed at home is best. Have your child get in the practice of writing down their summer activities, playdates, etc. Make sure they take a look at the calendar every day to know what to expect for the day. It may be a great activity for the whole family to do together and plan out their week each Sunday with planners in hand.
Drink water and pack/eat a nutritious lunch. I know school cafeterias get a bad rep, but they are designed to provide your child with a balanced meal each day. Breakfast is free to all students and lunch could be free or at a reduced price based on your income.
If your child doesn’t like school lunches, please be sure to pack a meal. Many times, I see students eating several bags of chips and snacks as their lunch. I know this isn’t helping them stay focused and do their best.
If you have the means to provide a lunch, please pack veggies, fruits, and a water bottle that they can refill. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE!
Also, lunch can tend to be much later than what they were used to in elementary so eating a breakfast is crucial.
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Get to Know the Counselor
Get to know your child’s school counselor. I have been a middle school counselor for about 10 years and I have seen many students struggle with this transition.Our department specializes in social/emotional learning and mental health. One of the biggest issues we see is students struggling to fit in or make friends. I am asking parents to let your student fight through this. It is a great time for them to learn how to make connections with people they don’t know and people that aren’t like them. This is an area where your school counselor can assist. Many will have small groups about making friends and getting to know one another. Ask your counselor what their plans are for the new school year.
Limit Social Media
Limit social media activity. Most social media sites require users to be 13 or older to have a page. We know that they don’t really have a way of monitoring it, but I would HIGHLY SUGGEST that you do not allow your student to have social media until he or she is ready for it. It presents a plethora of issues including cyberbulling, violence, and seeing/hearing things that are not appropriate for their age group. Giving your student a phone that can text and make calls is sufficient for his or her safety and will cut down on the mental health issues.
I hope these tips can help make this rite of passage a pleasant one. Our kids are growing up, and it feels great that they are becoming more independent, but sad that they might not need us as much anymore.
Middle school is a difficult time, as I’m sure many of us remember, puberty mixed with the raging hormones can make for some very moody and cranky teens, but we love them through it. Now add a new school, new teachers, and new peers to the equation, and it can seem like a hurricane just hit you. Take it day by day and moment by moment. I promise it will be okay.