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Making the Transition from Elementary to Middle School

Making Your Move: Easing the Transition from Elementary to Middle School

Over the next month or so, schools across the area will be back in session. You or your children may feel a bit apprehensive about the start of the new year, especially if your children are transitioning from elementary to middle school. These kids are also rapidly approaching puberty, which means their mental and physical development just adds fuel to the fire. The good news is that you have time to make adjusting to middle school less of a challenge. Have a seat, relax, and take a deep breath, because you and your child are not alone.

The Rule of Three

Organization is the key to any smooth academic transition, even if you are just thinking about the factors and approaches to adjusting to middle school. Children usually express their concerns in one of three areas: practical details, social adjustments, and school work. Let’s take a look at each:

1.       Logistics

The shift from an elementary school setting to the often larger environment of middle school can make any student nervous. You child may worry about remembering how to get to class, finding time to go to the restroom, dealing with multiple teachers, even mastering a combination lock. These are all typical fears of the unknown that usually resolve after the first few weeks. Some ways to deal with these anxieties may include:

  • Getting a lock before school to practice
  • Printing a school map to mark classrooms, bathrooms, the cafeteria, and locker locations
  • Reviewing the student handbook for tardy policies, time between classes, dismissal routine, and any other new or different aspects of a typical school day
  • Printing the teachers’ syllabi before the first day of school to see specific materials and to understand expectations

2.       Education

Adjusting to middle school can also be daunting because students are wondering how they can handle the increased work load. Going from one or a few teachers to up to six or seven teachers, each with their own assignments, techniques, personalities, and expectations, is a big demand to place on any child. The academic transition can be easier with a little groundwork and as much organization as possible. Some things your student can do to prepare are:

  • Get school supplies in advance if possible
  • Meet the teachers at an orientation session
  • Get a planner or school agenda to keep track of assignments and USE IT
  • Finish any summer reading assignments and make notes to remember key points
  • Set aside a dedicated study area in the home and stock it with basic supplies
  • Help your child to learn self-advocacy, independence, and responsibility
  • Discuss an after school routine/set-up a general monthly calendar

3.       Socialization

This area may be the scariest for your child and also the trickiest to approach.  Parents today cannot fully comprehend the effect social media has in and out of the classroom nor the degree it can impact a student’s interaction with peers. Most children do feel awkward during middle school, but instead of supporting each other, they may result to bullying or become a target as they struggle to fit in. Parents and students should spend time before the school year begins to address some of these issues, such as:

  • Discussing conflict resolution and problem-solving techniques
  • Review the basics of being a friend and other social skills
  • Encourage the participation in school-related extracurricular activities
  • Talk about substance abuse and the dangers of smoking and alcohol
  • Develop an agreement for social media and technology usage
  • Broach the subject of romance and age-appropriate relationships and expectations

Get Ready

These middle school years are tough for students, parents, and teachers because so much change takes place in such a short time. As a parent, you have the opportunity to set the tone for your relationship with your children as they develop into adults. Your children can learn and sharpen study habits and social skills to serve them in later academic transition to high school and college. Do not be afraid to ask for help or talk about your concerns, because more than ever, learning and growing is a team effort, and we can all support each other.