As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” There is so much truth to this statement. Just yesterday I became a mom and now I am helping my oldest daughter prepare for middle school. It’s bittersweet, to say the least. On the one hand, I’m in disbelief at how fast time flies and I even get a little emotional just thinking about it. But I’m also beaming with pride seeing both my girls grow up, thrive, and gain a little more independence each day.
If you have children of a similar age, you may be wondering what you can do to prepare your tween for this important new chapter in their lives. They may be feeling nervous about starting at a new school, meeting new peers, and undertaking a more rigorous school curriculum. Thankfully for us, she won’t have to adjust to a new school because hers goes up to eighth grade. But many of you will be adjusting to this new reality.
To help you and your family prepare, I’ve gathered some tips that will put everyone’s mind at ease. Including my own.
1) Have conversations about what to expect.
Explain that, unlike elementary school, in middle school, they’ll be expected to go from one class to another with different teachers and classmates. They’ll be responsible for getting to each class on time. If they’ll be taking the bus or carpooling to school, be sure they’re prepared for the logistics of that, too.
2) Prepare for questions.
Once you begin to have these conversations, your child may have follow-up questions. Help ease their mind by giving them as much upfront information as possible. For answers you aren’t sure about, check the school website, talk to other moms who’ve been there, or contact the administrative office.
3) Talk to them about attendance.
In middle school, missing school means having to catch up on missed schoolwork and notes. And while it’s perfectly ok to stay home when they’re feeling sick, they should understand that missing school shouldn’t be a frequent occurrence. If they do miss school, walk them through what they should do to make sure they stay caught up with anything they missed.
4) Review the student handbook together.
The student handbook outlines rules, consequences, expectations, and other important information your new middle schooler should know. Making sure they’re familiar with what’s expected of them early on will better prepare them to be successful at their new school.
5) Help them get social.
Review what sports, clubs, or after-school activities the school offers. Come up with a few options your tween could be interested in. Encouraging them to be active in the school community can ensure they feel supported and adjust quickly to their new surroundings.
6) Teach them about organization.
Middle school requires more responsibility and daily organization than elementary school. Your child will have dedicated notebooks, folders, school supplies, and homework for each class they’re in. It’s important they learn to keep track of their things, have the supplies they need for each class, and ensure their homework is done on time. Getting them to write things down in a planner and wearing a watch can help with this process.
7) Get them used to reading more challenging books.
Middle school will undoubtedly involve more reading than elementary school. It’s a good time to get the kids more excited about reading. Visit the library together and pick out books at their reading level to help them get more comfortable with the type of material they’ll be reading in school.
8) Remind them it’s ok to ask for help.
Be sure your child knows who they can turn to if they need help while at school. For example, if they need directions to their class, let them know to find a teacher or school staff member to ask. If they aren’t feeling well, they should let their teacher know. And if another student upsets them, they should let you know. It’s important that kids know they’re never on their own and help is around the corner if they need it.
9) Have conversations about what makes a good friend.
Middle school can be rough socially. So this is a great time to teach our kids the importance of kindness, honesty, and standing up for themselves respectfully. It’s also important they learn to recognize what qualities and behaviors are deemed red flags, such as gossip, lying, bullying, and more.
10) Get involved.
Get involved in your middle schooler’s life by becoming a class delegate or joining the PTA, volunteering your time at special events, and getting friendly with other parents. Be sure to attend parent-teacher conferences and other events organized by the school. When the whole family is involved in the school community, it helps create more security around this time in your kids’ lives.
I hope you and your children have an amazing school year!