As your child grows, they experience a host of changes. Not only physically but changes in what they find important or value. Peers become more important to them and they may start pulling away from you. During this time, many schools also move your child from elementary schools where they have attended for years and are comfortable to a middle school where they have to start from scratch. Your child has to learn how to navigate a new building, who the school staff are, how to fit in and adjust. This often times causes stress in the child and for a short while it may interfere with their education. Here are things you can do to help make adjusting to middle school easier for your child.
Talk to Your Child
Talk to your child about any concerns they may have about starting middle school. Try to put yourself in their position. Think about the last time you took a new job or moved to a new community and had to ‘find your place’. Remember the stress you felt? As adults, we have had to deal with this kind of stress for years but for many kids, this is the first real big change.
When addressing your child’s concerns, repeat back to them what they said so they know you’re listening. Instead of providing a solution for them, try working together to find positive ways to overcome or tackle their concerns. The more they are involved in the solution, the more it will help them feel.
Understand What Your Child is Thinking
Keep in mind where your child’s mind is right now. You may be thinking only of academic performance and how this new stage will affect it. While this is important, most kids this age are not thinking about academics. They are thinking about their friends, their looks, and which boy or girl they have a crush on. In other words, they are really much more focused on the social scene and what others think about them than they are about grades. This doesn’t mean you should let grades slide; it just helps you understand why their mindset seems to be changing. It is!
Take a Tour
Just like for younger kids getting ready to start Kindergarten, your middle school student will be attending a new place with new teachers and classrooms. He will have lots of new teachers – a different one for each subject – rather than one teacher all day. It can be overwhelming to change classes for the first time, trying to find the right classroom, the cafeteria, and so forth.
School staff usually start back to work a couple of weeks prior to school opening. Give them a call and see if you can bring your child in for a quick tour before the first day to help him get oriented. A tour can help take some of the edge off.
Keep Other Changes to a Minimum
For the first few weeks of school, try to keep your family routines steady. The less change you have at home, the more your child will feel secure and grounded. Although they may not act like it, children value these comfy traditions.
This is a time of big upheaval for your child. But with a little patience and using the steps above, you can help minimize the stress your child feels during their middle school transition.