Adjusting to Middle School

  • Middle school is a transitional step for students between elementary school and high school. The importance of a middle school education is enormous as it lays down the foundation for the student to go to high school and then on to college.

    There is an alarming increase in the number of high school dropouts or students who quit their education after middle school itself. Many young people today prefer leisure activities over education. Children in middle school are far too young to make such an important decision such as dropping out of school, but they are often pressured by their peers. 

    Parents need to encourage their children to think about college and the importance of their work in middle school as it relates to success in high school. Middle school students are not too young to begin the college process. Students at this age are more likely to accept what is being taught at school. Parents need to reinforce the value of higher education to their children.

Tips to Ease the Transition to Middle School

    • Don’t create unnecessary stress about the transition. Successful students need to know that the same practices that made them successful in elementary school will make them successful as middle school students too. Focus on what will remain consistent. 

    • Don’t be too anxious about your child going to middle school. She will take clues from you, and if you are consistently talking to others parents about how worried you are, she will hear you. Your child is capable of handling middle school. 

    • Teach him daily organizational habits. Help your child learn organizational habits like checking an assignment sheet before leaving his locker every day or packing up his book bag the night before. Reinforce the importance of going to school with everything he needs.

    • Get to know the teachers. It’s a good idea to meet each of your child’s teachers. Ask about their expectations. Find out how much time your child should spend on homework each night.

    • Find a niche for yourself at your child’s school. Unlike in the lower grades, middle school classrooms don’t need extra adults on hand. But you can volunteer in other ways. Project CARE needs mentors for middle school as well as elementary schools.

    • Join your middle school PTO.

    • Volunteer to chaperone school dances and drive kids to school sports competitions. You’ll meet other parents, school staff, and your child’s classmates.

    • Go to school meetings and events. Attending concerts, plays, assemblies, meetings, and other activities is a good way to become familiar with your child’s school community.

    • Find out about homework assignments and school tests. Each middle school team has a homework blog where assignments are posted daily. 

    • Talk to your child about school. Ask specific questions to draw out your child. Ask “How do you think you did on the math test?” “What games did you play in PE?”

    • Give your child a quiet place to study and do homework. Find an area in your home that is free of distraction where your middle schooler can concentrate on homework. Be available to help if your child has questions. 

    • Check your child’s homework, but don’t do it for her. Offer to check math problems, proofread written papers, and look over spelling words. If you find a mistake, point it out to your child and help her figure out the correct answer.

    • Post a family calendar in a central place. Write down important school dates, including parents’ meetings, due dates for projects, and test dates. Encourage your middle schooler to add to the calendar and to check it daily.

    • Help your child expand his peer contacts and practice good social skills. Too often parents want to keep a child with former classmates because it seems easier than making new friends. This limits a child’s growth experience.

    • Begin letting your child make decisions about how to spend and use his time, within limits of course. He can learn how to schedule social time around homework and school sports. Balance is the key.

    • Learn how to listen and not take over a situation. It is often easier to just do it yourself as the parent, but your child will never learn how to solve problems with confidence if you don’t let him. Helping your child review the options, and evaluate his decisions is critical.

    • Build open communication with your child. Even if your child tells you everything now, that will change. Being a good listener keeps these channels open.

    • Learn how to communicate with the school. Identify who your contacts will be and practice making connections with the new system and new people in your child’s school day. Knowing the system will reduce your anxiety.

    • Don’t be afraid to volunteer at the school to see your child in action. You will quickly recognize the wide range of student differences that characterizes the middle school years. Even the child who pleads with his parent not to come to school or volunteer usually feels proud of Mom and Dad for being there.