The middle-school years are considered by many to be the toughest – both academically and socially – for developing adolescents. While making the transition from elementary school to a separate middle school in sixth grade, your child may be concerned about:>>• going to an unfamiliar and larger school,>>• making new friends,>>• having more than one teacher,>>• being bullied by older students,>>• getting lost in the halls,>>• eating lunch in an allotted time – sometimes only half an hour,>>• locating the next class in the few minutes between classes,>>• finding and opening a locker, remembering the combination and>>• handling the increased amount of homework and responsibilities.>
Easing the Transition>>Children may come home from these challenges irritable, frustrated and upset. To help ease their adjustment, The National Middle School Association recommends that parents:>>• Visit the school together with your child before the year starts. Locate your child’s locker, the bathroom, his homeroom and the main office during a tour of the school. Many middle schools invite students and their parents in during the last couple of weeks of summer vacation.>>• Prioritize tasks. A messy bedroom, a math assignment and a project that’s due can overwhelm any child. Decide which tasks should come first.>>• Be prepared. At the beginning of the year, ask the teacher what items are essential and what projects are planned so that you can buy the required materials ahead of time.>>• Help your middle-schooler get organized. Encourage her to keep a calendar and to jot down assignments, appointments and due dates daily. When a task is completed, have your child check it off the list.>>• Empower your middle-school student. Asking your child, “What time will you be starting your work?” instead of demanding, “Start your homework right now!” makes her, not you, responsible for the work.>>• Be willing to listen, but don’t pry. Adolescents value independence and often seem secretive, such as wanting to talk to peers on the telephone in private. Let them know you’d love to help them, but don’t push them into a defensive position.>>• Accept children for who they are. Don’t needlessly criticize their choice of clothes or haircuts. Be their friend. Some days, they’ll feel that you’re the only one they have.>>• Invite new acquaintances over to play. This way, your child can make friends in a setting away from school.>>• Expect that your child’s friendships will have ups and downs. Adolescents have a lot of spats with their companions, but they often make up after a short time.>>RESOURCES>
• National Middle School Association, 800-528-6672, www.nmsa.org. Provides resources to anyone involved in the education or welfare of young adolescents.