Getting Your Kids Ready For Middle School

middle school

Grade Ready!

Getting Your Kids Ready For Middle School

There are few transitions more important than the one from elementary to middle school. Kids go
from being, well, kids to becoming adolescents with all that entails. How do you prepare them
for the academic and social challenges of middle school?

Here’s what the experts say:

Visit The Middle School

Going to middle school often means literally starting at a new and unfamiliar school, and that
can make any kid anxious. You can help ease the transition, Alicia Trautwein, a parenting coach
and author of the well-known blog, The Mom Kind, says by making it a priority to visit the
school with your kids on back-to-school night. She suggests that parents let their kids explore the
school on their own by having them walk around with a schedule so that they can find all their
classes, look for their locker and practice their lock combination, and go outside to get a feel for
the area. “By helping them get comfortable with the school hallways, classrooms, and
environment,” Ms. Trautwein says, “they can be more prepared for the transition.”

Develop Organization Skills for Middle School

In middle school, the day suddenly gets much more complex than what they’ve been used to in
elementary school: there are many more courses, taught by different teachers, and often in
classrooms on different floors of the building. This requires good organization skills. Marion
Wilde of Great Schools, an education think tank, goes so far as to say that “organization is the
key to middle-school success.” How can you help your kids organize themselves better? The

experts at KidsHealth, a major health-news site, suggest that parents buy binders, folders, and
notebooks for each class, teach their kids how to use a personal planner, and encourage them to
make daily to-do lists of assignments.

… and Time-Management

An important part of organization is time-management. Ms. Wilde suggests that parents teach
their kids to estimate how long each assignment will take to finish, and then help them divide up
the work over the number of days allotted for each assignment to create smaller, more
manageable chunks of work and a realistic schedule. Ms. Trautwein adds that parents should
help their kids create a daily schedule, which includes morning and evening routines, homework
and study time, extracurricular activities and time with friends, and some alone time where they
can unwind and de-stress. Ms. Trautwein says that having such a schedule will teach your kids
accountability: they’ll become “more accountable for their time and the things they need to get

Help With Homework

Homework is much more demanding in middle than elementary school; kids are often expected
to do 1-2 hours of homework every day. Experts agree that parents should encourage their kids
to take ownership of their homework. Ms. Wilde suggests that parents ask lots of questions as a
way of guiding their kids: “Where do you think you should begin? What do you need to do next?
Can you describe how you’re going to solve this problem? What did you try that didn’t work?
What did you try that did work?” Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna, co-authors of Middle School:
The Inside Story, agree that parents should act more like consultants who ask probing questions

than as authority figures ready to offer the solution: “If your child’s grades slip, ask questions to
find out why it’s happening and help him think through a plan to correct the problem.”

Deal With Friends in Middle School

In middle school, kids often start to develop deep and intimate friendships and, as with all
relationships, these friendships sometimes go sour. How do you help your kids deal with
friendship issues?

Two of the best approaches are:

1) being emotionally available for your kids,

2) helping them to brainstorm possible solutions.

Michelle Icard, author Middle School Makeover and many other parenting books, says that sometimes the best approach is simply to be
there for your kids ready to listen to whatever they have to say: “Your reassuring presence in
their lives might just be enough.” Ms. Tobias and Acuna add that parents should let their kids
know that they’ll always be there for them: “At this age, what they want from you is what you
want from a friend or a spouse: to be listened to, understood and taken seriously.”

If the issue is more serious and/or your kids are clearly troubled by it, try to help them come up
with possible solutions. Just as with homework, however, don’t try to solve their issues but
instead help them come up with solutions. “Running into friendship trouble can make tweens
feel helpless,” Ms. Icard says, “but coming up with personal solutions is a great way to restore
feelings of capability and confidence.”


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