If your tween is like most, he's probably feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension at the prospect of beginning middle school. Helping tweens make the transition from elementary school to middle school helps prepare them for a successful academic year. While it may be difficult for you or your tween to say good-bye to elementary school, the middle school years provide plenty of opportunities for your son or daughter to develop socially, academically, and intellectually.
To get him off on the right foot, consider the following pointers.
Make sure your tween understands that middle school may be very different from elementary school. Help her understand that her teachers will expect her to be more responsible, and take on additional homework. Lockers, gym class, mandatory showers after gym, multiple teachers, and a whole new group of kids may just be a few of your child's new experiences. In addition, your tween will be responsible for finding her new classrooms and arriving on time for each class.
On the upside, point out that middle school will offer social activities and clubs that elementary school never had, such as band, sports clubs, and other opportunities. Also, many middle school cafeterias offer items such as a salad bar, potato bar, or a pizza bar. Find out what your child's school offers in terms of extra-curricular activities, as well as elective classes. Accentuate the positive!
Many middle schools offer an open house or a "getting to know us" evening for both children and parents. Such events are wonderful opportunities for both you and your son or daughter to familiarize yourselves with the new school. If such opportunities aren't offered, don't hesitate to call the school to request a tour with the principal or the guidance counselor. Your child may get more out of a tour if he invites a classmate along.
Discuss the Middle School Rules
If your middle schooler tends to find out about rules the hard way, save him a little time by going over the school's dress code, cell phone rules, bus rules, and cafeteria rules. Discuss the school's consequence policy (and yours, too).
Talk About Social Pressures
The middle school years present enormous social pressures for children and introduce them to a variety of dangers. Take every possible opportunity to reinforce your family's rules and values regarding smoking, drugs, alcohol, dating, co-ed sleepovers, and any other issues of concerns.
Role play with your child about how he should react when confronted by a classmate to smoke or drink alcohol. Stay on top of your child's social situation by getting to know his friends and their parents. If you see a change in your child's personality, or his grades begin to drop, take action. Contact the school guidance counselor to find out if there might be something going on at school or on the bus, such as bullying. Remind your child every now and then that you are there to help, and that he can talk to you about anything.
Ask About Concerns
Be sure to give your child numerous opportunities to ask questions about her new experience and express concerns. You may think your daughter is stressed about changing classes, when she may really be worried about whether or not she'll remember her locker combination.
Assess Your Child's Skills and Abilities
Starting all over at a new school is hard enough, but starting over when you're struggling with math or reading can make the experience a nightmare. Consider tutoring services if your child's academic skills aren't where they should be. Also, ask the middle school about any resources they may provide to help your child succeed academically.
There are a number of resources available to tweens that can help them troubleshoot the tumultuous middle school years. Find a resource you think your tween will consult for advice and reassurance.