Transitioning from Elementary School to Middle School is a great challenge for many kids. The expectations of meeting new kids from other schools, having more serious school work, and meeting different teachers are part of the concerns.
Then there is just negotiating the new school landscape. Finding your way in a larger building, going from classroom to classroom and getting there on time, and meeting new expectations of parents and teachers adds even more stress.
How can you help your child prepare for this new experience so they can think of it in a positive light with new opportunities for friendships and learning?
10 Parenting Tips for Preparing Your Child for Middle School
1. Visit the school several times. Find out when the school is open for exploring. Your child probably had a spring orientation where they were toured about but that may seem easily forgotten by the fall. Summer visits without pressure help kids feel more like this is a place where they will belong.
2. Go on the school's website with your child and see the different ways it is organized. They may see pictures of teachers that give them a beginning sense of familiarity with their new instructors. They may be able to see how their assignments will be put online for them to find.
3. Let your child know that he or she is not alone in fearing the unknown. Everybody is in the same boat. As information is sent home about their homeroom and schedule, go over it together. Answer any questions and find out the information that you don't know that will ease your child's mind. Take an active role in calling the school with questions, so your child knows you are on their side.
4. Do clothes shopping for school during the summer when there isn't pressure. This eases your child into the idea that middle school is really coming but there's plenty of time to get used to the idea.
5. Help your child keep in touch with school friends especially those in the neighborhood who they will ride on the bus with each day. When a child knows who they can sit with on the bus, it takes a weight off their shoulders.
6. Drive the bus route if you can get it, so your son or daughter knows what to expect. Learning whether you will be one of the first or the last on the bus or someone in between eases the unknown.
7. If you know parents of kids who are a year ahead in middle school and your child is comfortable, have one of these kids over for a visit so your child is familiar with at least one upper class peer who can tell them about school social and academic life. The more information they have, the less they fear the unfamiliar.
8. A week or two before school starts discuss your child's options for lunch. Do they want to bring it or buy it at the beginning of the year?. As the term progresses they'll know what's more comfortable, but talking about it ahead again eases the unknown.
9. Remember some kids are very open about their concerns and excitement while others are more reticent. Be casual about these conversations taking your cues from your child's interest in engaging in their thoughts about school. Some want to put off thinking about it as long as possible, but this may not be in their best interest because then the worries hit just before school starts.
10. Most important is to keep an open line of communication between you and your child. Chatting casually about general summer life lowers the barriers to talking about what might be troubling them. Follow their lead.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are found.