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Helping Your Tween Deal with School Trouble

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Middle school can be quite a change from elementary school, and for some students, the middle school years are speckled with school trouble spots -- from bullying, to homework challenges, to social problems with friends, and frenemies.

You can help your child deal with school trouble, and maybe even prevent certain problems from popping up. The key is to know what to look for, and to help your child deal with the problem quickly and efficiently. Below are school trouble issues that your child may face in the middle school years. Go over them together, and then role-play how your child should handle the situations.

Middle School Trouble Spots

Bullying at School, Trouble Indeed: Bullying and cyberbullying tend to escalate and peak during the middle school years, as children become more aware of their social standing, and envious of their friends or others around them. Girls and boys can be vulnerable to bullies, and clever bullies know how to torment without getting caught. Your tween needs to know how to spot a bully, and how to react should a bully attempt to make your child a victim. In addition, you need to know the signs that a bully has targeted your child, because many children are afraid or ashamed to admit that they're being harassed at school.

Academic Trouble: Middle school is far more demanding than elementary school, and your child will not be coddled anymore. In middle school, students are expected to work independently, take initiative, problem solve without adult help, and behave age appropriately. If your child got away without completing homework assignments in elementary school, those days are gone. And excuses don't get one very far in middle school. Encourage your child to stay on top of assignments, projects and other assignments and to be proactive with his studies. In addition, if your child begins to slip in a certain subject, act quickly, either by asking about after school help, or by finding a tutor for your child.

Friendship Trouble: Friendships can get sticky during middle school, as kids meet new people, access their popularity, and find new interests. Even long-lasting friendships sometimes suffer during middle school. Parents are wise to encourage their children to make new friends, and develop their interests without alienating old friends. However, it's not a good idea to force a friendship on your tween, but rather to let that friendship take its natural course. If your child is rejected by a friend or a group of peers, encourage her to embrace an after school activity where she might meet people with similar interests.

Trouble with Teachers: Since middle schoolers change classes throughout the day, your tween will have more than one teacher, which might be a change from elementary school. It's likely that at some point, he or she will encounter a teacher that is difficult, or even unfair. The good news is that since your child will have numerous teachers, he won't spend the entire day with the one he doesn't get along with. Encourage your tween to make the most of the situation by trying his best in class, listening to directions and following them, and keeping you up to date. If you think your child is being treated unfairly, you might consider meeting with the teacher, to hear the other side of the story. The school guidance counselor or principal may also be included in the meeting.

Trouble on the Bus: School trouble doesn't just take place on campus, but can happen on the bus or even at the bus stop. Your child should know that the ride to and from school could get difficult, from time to time. Drug use, bullying, and fights could take place on the bus, as could other forms of harassment. If the school bus driver is not dealing with the problems, a call to the school principal or to the school transportation department might be in order. If your child feels unsafe on the bus, you need to take action.

Inhalants, Alcohol and Other Dangers: Your child is getting older, and will be approached about smoking, drinking, and other dangers, possibly at school. It's never too late to sit your child down to talk about these pressures, and how he should handle them. Even good kids can make bad decisions, so be prepared and make sure your child understands the dangers out there. Keeping in touch with other parents is key -- as that is the best way to know what's going on in your community.
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