Making the step from an elementary student to a middle school student is one that invokes considerable changes and opportunities for students. Middle school is notorious for examples of bullying, clicks, and popularity levels as students try to find their place in the school. The following advice is for parents who are sending children to middle school for the first time.
Expect a rollercoaster
Middle school is a time in which children are going through many physical and emotional changes. Do not be surprised that it varies from day-to-day and week-to week. One week they may be irritable with parents and another day they may be happy as can be. This can be the nature of middle school, so understand that it is the age and don’t take any of it seriously.
Understand academics get more difficult
Many middle school students struggle academically when they reach middle school. Usually teachers expect more of the students with more independence. At times this can be an adjustment for students. Expect that grades could go down for a small period of time due to adjusting to a new school, teachers, and expectations. If the grades don’t rebound to their normal level in a few weeks or if they severely drop off, parents should definitely speak to their child’s teacher to see what is going on.
Prepare for some disappointments
Unfortunately a significant change from elementary school to middle school is that activities begin to prepare teams for high school. This can be the place where students learn that they are not first chair in clarinet or that they do not make the first string on the basketball team. Be prepared for when these disappointments come. Make sure that the child doesn’t put everything into one single activity. It is better to have them dabble in several activities to develop their interests and so there are other options if they are disappointed by one activity.
Because the number of areas a student becomes involved in increases in middle school, keeping track of all of these school events and activities will take some coordination. A good idea is to post a dry erase calendar where everyone can see it and add events to it as soon as the information is available. It is also beneficial to have a long range planner to keep track of important dates. Once a week having a family meeting can really help with communication about what is needed for the week. This can help avoid the surprise money for the field trip or that the uniform needs to be washed for pictures on Tuesday.
Watch for withdrawal
When things aren’t going as well in school as a child may want, there is a tendency in middle school to withdraw from others. This can be the result of embarrassment, bullying or lack of friends. This can be emotionally frightening for parents to deal with because a parent can’t just snap fingers and make their child fit in or have friends. It is important to talk to the child and find out what the problem is. Do not be afraid to contact teachers, principals or other parents in a mature manner if warranted.
Be prepared to eat healthy
As middle school students are on the go to activities, there is a tendency to eat too much fast food and unhealthy snack foods. Children, who used to eat their meals happily, may suddenly crave foods that are not as nutritious. There may be an increased desire to not eat with the family at dinner and instead go eat by the TV or computer. Make sure to continue to have sit down meals and healthy snack available. Plan meals in the crockpot to be ready after the game to avoid falling into the fast food trap.
Be ready for romance
While many middle school students make it through this age without a major crush or girlfriends/boyfriends, this is usually the age when children have their first romantic relationship. It may be a crush that is never spoken, or they could start to flirt at a boy/girl party. Understand that this is normal, but this is an important time for parents to be ready to discuss sexual issues. At times middle school girls are attracted to boys that may be a couple more years ahead of them and as well more physically mature. Keep an eye on relationships and encourage them to get together at your child’s house. This way the parent can be more confident about what is happening between them.
Be ready to discipline
Middle school can be a time when children really begin to test the boundaries that parents set up. This can be the test run for how high school will go, so this is an important time for parents to get it right. Set boundaries and be prepared to follow through with the appropriate consequences. If this is not established well in middle school, the child will continue to test the boundaries in high school.
Having a student enter middle school can be seen as a challenging time, but more often than not middle school students are still the sweet natured children inside that they were when they were younger. It can be hard to see them grow up, but embrace this new journey that they are embarking on.