Help your Tween Be Successful in Middle School
It’s so exciting when your tween finishes elementary school, but they can become a nervous mess as the school year approaches and the reality of attending middle school sets in. If you have a tween headed to middle school, today’s blog is the perfect guide you need to navigate the many changes and challenges your child will face.
Set Your Tween Up for Success
There are a few steps you can take to help your tween have every advantage before they even enter the doors of their middle school:
- Don’t miss school orientation or open house! Many of your child’s fears will be addressed with a tour of the school. A tour will allow your tween to test his/her locker, visit classrooms, meet teachers, and find key places in the school (gym, cafeteria, library, office). Knowing where things are and what to expect will give your tween a sense of confidence on the first day.
- Address locker anxiety. Many tweens are scared of lockers for three reasons: (1) they are afraid they will not be able to open the lock, (2) they are afraid they will not have time to get to their locker between classes, and (3) they are afraid that someone who has a locker near them will pick on them. Let your tween know that schools allow students to switch to a different locker if the location becomes a problem. Give your student a combination lock of their own over the summer to practice. Finally, find an older student (sibling, neighbor, etc.) that can assure them there is plenty of time between classes to get to their locker.
- Address schedule anxiety. A class schedule can seem very overwhelming to a new student, so try to validate their feelings while still alleviating their worries. Remind your child that everything feels hard at first, but within the first week, it will feel normal. Encourage your tween to speak up if they have trouble finding anything. Teachers, counselors, and other school staff are there to help. Point out the positives of a changing schedule – if they don’t like one of their classes, they are only stuck with it for about an hour each day. Finally, get a map of the school before it begins and go over it with your tween.
Teach Time Management
Jumping from elementary to middle school creates new challenges in managing time. Your child will be receiving homework assignments and projects from six different teachers, while at the same time trying to juggle their extracurricular activities. It’s a good idea to develop a system for keeping track of all their commitments right away, so that they can remember their work and practice good time management. If you don’t set up a system, or you let them slide, your student will likely fall behind, which will create a lot of stress and feelings of failure.
Encourage Extracurricular Activities
Middle school offers lots of after-school sports, clubs, and activities. From football to field hockey, from drama club to school yearbook, from band to computer club, extracurricular activities are a great way for your tween to make lasting friends, explore new interests, discover hidden talents, develop school spirit, and have lots of fun. Most students find extracurriculars to be the best part of the switch to middle school, so encourage your child to expand his or her personal skills and talents.
Prepare for Peer Pressure
Peer pressure really kicks into high gear in middle school. And while facing this increased pressure, hormonal tweens are also suffering from a fear of embarrassment. Warn your students that they will see more cliques, bullying, dating, and drug use. If you do not want your tween to bully, date or begin smoking, it is vital you express that expectation before they walk in the door to middle school. Remind your tween that you want them to think for themselves and maintain their individuality. They shouldn’t conform, give up interests, or engage in bad behavior just because “everyone else does it”.
Role model positivity in your life even when you think your tween isn’t paying attention. You still have the most influence in your child’s life. Unfortunately, negativity is very common during the middle school years, and your tween is likely to try out some of the negative attitudes of their peers. Make sure you point out the positives of middle school, the benefits of growing up, and the advantages your family has. It also helps to keep your tween active outside of school work.
The idea of moving up to middle school can be scary for many children. Parents need to be understanding of their fears, while also pointing out the numerous benefits and opportunities that middle school offers. Talk to your tween about all the organizations and clubs he or she will be able to join, as well as the independence that comes with being a preteen. Encourage your tween to become involved right away, when everyone in his class is just as new to the school as he is.