The move from elementary school to middle school can be a big transition. Not only will your child go from being the oldest in elementary school to the youngest in middle school, but he is likely experiencing other changes, as well, as he enters his early teen, or “tween”, years. He may be at a new school with new and older students, new teachers, and a new way of doing things, all of which can cause fear and anxiety. Although he may no longer be your baby, there are steps you can take to help your child through this difficult time and get his tween years off to a great start!
Talk to your tween. Try to find out how your child is feeling about starting middle school. Listen to and answer her questions. Reassure her that it is ok to be nervous. Acknowledge that she has grown up and that you are confident in her ability to handle this new experience, but let her know that she can still come to you. Try not to show your anxiety about your child going to middle school. If she hears you telling others how worried you are, she may become more anxious. If your child has older siblings, cousins, or family friends who have already been to middle school, get them to share their experiences with her. Sometimes conversations with another child can be effective in calming any concerns. Find out what kind of extracurricular activities your child’s school offers and talk with her about what she might want to participate in like sports, band, student government, theater, etc. This may help her connect with other kids and get excited about the upcoming school year.
Get yourselves acclimated. Most middle schools have orientation day for new students. Your child can tour the school, meet the teachers and other students, and get a little information about what it will be like to go there. He can walk the halls and see where classrooms, lockers, bathrooms, and the cafeteria are. If the school has an orientation or visiting time for parents, try to attend and meet the school administrators and teachers. They have been through this before and can help you know what to expect of the middle school experience. Do not be afraid to contact them at any time throughout the school year.
Leave time for transition. Even though they know it is coming, older children still have trouble adjusting to back to school time. A few weeks before school begins, start getting your child prepared. Set a bedtime for school nights and have him wake up at the time he has to for school. Help your child get organized by getting at least the basics, even though he may not yet know exactly what supplies he will need. Develop a plan for lunches, whether it is making sure your child has lunch money or having him help with lunch preparation. Discuss the school night schedule in advance so there will be fewer arguments, from TV and computer time to homework time.
Adjust to the academics. Chances are your child will have a bigger workload in middle school than she did in elementary school, and the consequences will likely be more severe for forgotten homework. Discuss some ways to stay organized like checking an assignment sheet before leaving her locker everyday or packing up her book bag the night before and being sure she has everything she needs for the next day. You can find out from the school how much homework your child will get, how long it should take her, and how she can get extra help if she is struggling. Children at this age are not very forthcoming with information, but try to ask your child about what she did in her classes each day and what homework she has.