Creative Child

Guiding Your Child through the Transition to Middle School

by Rebecca Eanes

The transition to middle school is an important milestone. It’s a time of tremendous change, not only to a new school building, but also physically, emotionally, and mentally for your child. My oldest son just finished his transition to middle school this year, having just completed grade six. I’ve learned over the past year that there is much we, as parents, can do to help make this transition go a little more smoothly.

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Research shows that young adolescents making the move to middle school are actually quite worried about logistics. They are concerned about getting lost in the new school or not being to find their classes on time. What happens if they’re tardy? Where do they go if they get lost? Students are often transitioning to a bigger school, so it can certainly feel quite overwhelming for them. Here are some steps you can take to help allay your child’s fears.

  • Attend a school orientation or set up a time to visit the school with your child. Walk around the school with your child so she becomes familiar with the layout.
  • Review the student handbook with your child. Discuss the rules, the code of conduct, and the school’s consequences for not following rules. Knowing what is expected will help your child feel more confident on that first day of school.
  • Buy your child a lock for his locker several weeks before the start of school so that he can get comfortable with working the combination quickly.
  • Visit the school’s website with your child to check for schedules and announcements, and print off your child’s class schedule and go over it with her. Discuss the amount of time she has to get between classes. You may even want to print a map if she’s feeling particularly anxious and actually map out her walk from class to class and place it in her binder.

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Academically, it’s not uncommon for your child’s grades to slip a bit during this transitional period. There is so much for him to suddenly keep up with, and it may take several weeks or even months to get the hang of it. Whereas your child is probably used to having one teacher for the whole day, now he will likely change classes several times per day and learn the teaching styles of a few new teachers. Keeping up with the changing academics alone would be a struggle, but this is piled on top of all the other changes your child is enduring at once, so take a few deep breaths and gather your patience. He will need lots of encouragement and grace as he settles in. Here’s how to help:

  • Meet with your child’s teachers and discuss your child’s learning style, strengths, weaknesses, and personality. Stay in contact throughout the school year and take advantage of every parent-teacher conference.
  • If your child seems to still be struggling mid-year, get in touch with the school counselor for recommendations.
  • Stick to a schedule. Even though she may be pushing for a later bedtime and more independence, having a routine in place for homework, extracurricular activities, dinner, family time, and bedtime will help your child stay on track.
  • Teach your child organizational and time management skills. Middle school is the time for these skills to be taught and practiced. Show him how to organize his binder properly, where to jot down homework assignments and keep project papers, etc.
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