Middle School Transition

Have you noticed that your tween is acting a bit oddly? Is it the dreaded physical or hormonal changes of adolescence, or is it anxiety about an upcoming change in his/her life—the big leap from elementary to middle school? Chances are it’s a combination of both, resulting in your child acting out in ways that aren’t so thrilling to you. It’s not easy to make the transition from being the “oldest” at an elementary campus to being the “youngest” at a new, unfamiliar middle school.

Here are a few tips compiled from the Association for Middle Education:

  • Association for Middle Education (AMLE) gives a scientific explanation of this particular stage of childhood development that describes both physical and cognitive characteristics.
  • Great Schools describes the logistical, social, and academic concerns of the pre-teen in an easy-to-understand way. 

Logistical Fears:Will I be able to find my classes? Can I get across campus without being tardy? What if I can’t get into my locker?

  • Be sure your child attends orientation, or take her and a few friends to explore the school. Find the restrooms, cafeteria, and her locker. Make the trek in scheduled order from classroom to classroom. Time the route so she can be confident that getting there on time is feasible.
  • Buy a lock for your child’s locker in advance, and practice opening and closing it. Make sure your he has the combination memorized or written in a binder. If remembering a combination is too overwhelming, consider a keyed lock, but keep in mind that those keys are easy to lose.

Social Fears: Will I be able to make new friends? Will the big kids bully me?

  • Encourage your child to participate in sports or clubs. Doing so will enable her to meet others with similar interests, and the interaction immediately creates a sense of belonging and security.
  • Help your tween learn basic social skills at home such as joining a conversation without interrupting, adding something relevant to a conversation in progress, and making eye contact. Remind him that his actions directly affect others. Acting in a positive manner yields positive benefits and vice-versa.
  • Be sure your child knows that if she ever feels threatened or bullied, she can talk to you or a school counselor without shame or fear of retribution.

Academic Fears: Am I as smart as the other kids? Can I handle an increased load of homework and higher teacher expectations?

  • In elementary school, grades may have been based on a number scale or with marks like a check-plus, but in middle school, letter grades are more likely. The new grading system brings out the competitive nature of students. Be sure your child understands that grades are not a contest, and that marks are his personal business. As a parent, do not over react to grades. Changes in grades are normal during the adjustment period. See PBS Kids for more helpful information.
  • Middle school teachers have many more students to manage, and they expect students to take on more personal responsibility. You can teach time management skills by creating a schedule together and prioritizing school, home, and extracurricular activities.

While most of us consider children to be quite adaptable, change can still be intimidating. By taking an active role in helping your child be prepared for a new experience, you are helping to ensure that he/she will make the transition as smoothly as possible. All of life is filled with making changes, and teaching your child healthy coping skills at this stage can help set a positive pattern for the future.


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