Making a Strong Start in Middle School
Advancing to middle school can be a challenge for students. Not only are they beginning a more demanding stage of their education, but also they are navigating many physical, social, and emotional changes. Compounding the challenge is the fact that kids at this age think they know everything!
As parents, we know that succeeding in this transition is vital for future academic achievement and self-confidence, so it’s natural to want to help. But how can you be supportive while still nurturing a student’s growing independence—and without starting World War III? Try the ideas below, which were gathered from experts and experienced parents.
Expect Frequent Change
In the middle school ages, students’ brains are rapidly growing and developing new pathways. At the same time, students are trying to redefine themselves as separate from their parents. The combination of these two forces means that middle school students may try—and discard—new interests and new friends at a shocking rate of speed. Blend in the volatility of adolescent emotions, and you can be sure to expect some drama. You may need to remind yourself frequently to be patient during this normal stage of development.
Help Students Get Organized
Prepare your student for keeping track of more complex subjects and assignments with a double dose of organization. Make sure your student has a dedicated space for doing schoolwork that includes a file drawer, extra folders, and labels. Color coding by subject is not only effective but also makes for a more appealing study environment.
Although your kid may say it’s “old school,” suggest using a small notebook for keeping track of assignments—jotting down notes works better than a middle schooler’s memory! Even if your student uses some sort of digital day planner, a large wall calendar can be an excellent visual reminder of deadlines as well as a tool for planning longer-term assignments such as science fair projects or research papers.
Coach on Study Skills
Stepping up to a new level of academics can be overwhelming for students. And after a summer of fun, they are likely a bit rusty on their study skills. While you can’t learn the material for them, you can remind and coach your kids about effective study techniques that will help. In middle school, students may need to step up their game in learning directly from their texts, so encourage them to use active reading comprehension strategies. Additionally, they may need a refresher on effective note-taking skills, whether taking notes in class or when reading a text.
Support but Don’t Save the Day
Most middle school students lack the experience or patience to plan ahead and may end up forgetting their lunch bag or clarinet or leaving their science homework at home. Although it is tempting to come to your child’s rescue, it’s important that you let your middle school students deal with the consequences of bad planning on their own. Take a preventive approach by coaching your student to organize their school and extracurricular items the night before, and to leave themselves reminder notes or set alarms on their phones. Then hold them accountable for being prepared.
Coach your middle school students to be their own advocate and solve their own problems, particularly at school. If a certain course is a real struggle, encourage your student to speak directly with the teacher and ask for help. Doing this may feel uncomfortable for a middle schooler, so you may need to help plan what to say. Brainstorming ideas or role playing can be a good way to help. And make sure to let your middle schooler know that you will always be there for backup if needed.
Give your kids additional practice at speaking up and interacting with adults by asking them to take charge at the deli counter or bakery—or to order your family’s delivery pizza. Even the most simple interactions can be valuable rehearsals for communicating with adults.
Prompt Students to Get Involved
In many areas, students end up attending different middle schools than their elementary school friends. Even if they end up in some of the same classes, the emotional, physical, and social changes they are experiencing could make them feel like strangers. One way to help your student navigate the choppy waters of middle school social life is through extracurricular activities. Encourage your middle schooler to get involved in school activities and to pursue personal interests outside of school. Hobbies and interests—and a network of friends who share them—can help kids maintain a more even keel despite the challenges ahead.
If your student brings home lower-than-expected grades during the early months of middle school, don’t overreact! There can be a significant learning curve for adjusting to having more complex classes—and a different teacher for each subject. Talk calmly with your middle school student and work together to set goals and make a plan for improvement.
Having a calm attitude will also help you reassure your student during the inevitable embarrassments and social turmoil of middle school. Practice being a good listener and don’t trivialize his or her concerns. Also make sure to keep anything that your adolescent shares with you confidential. Your patience and discretion lets your child know that you respect his or her feelings and can be trusted.
To learn how you can be more involved in your middle school student’s education with more opportunities to provide meaningful input, visit the website for Connections AcademyⓇ online public school. Or to learn about online private school, visit International Connections Academy’s website.