THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BECOMING A MIDDLE SCHOOLER
Making the transition smooth
It’s that time again; a new school year is under way. While excitement and anticipation are in the air, anxiety may be lurking around, too. Adapting and transitioning from elementary school to middle school brings great stress on some middle schoolers. They face having to get around a new building, interacting with people they don’t know, trying to fit in, and adjusting to meet greater demands for self-sufficiency in studying and making the grade.
Some questions middle school students may struggle with are:
What if I …
• Am not able to do the school work?
• I Don’t have class with anyone I know?
• Am bullied?
• Can’t find my way around?
Some of the changes that middle school students face:
• Switching classes
• Having more teachers and learning their expectations
• Dressing out for P.E.
• Greater expectations of being more responsible and grown up.
Parents should take an active interest in noticing how their middle schooler is settling in to the new school routine. A few things parents may want to consider to help with making smooth transitions:
Help your child get organized: Provide a time and place to do homework with needed supplies. Give assistance when tests are coming up.
Ask questions about your middle schooler’s friends:
• Does your friend make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable?
• Do you have fun and laugh with friends?
• Do you trust your friends?
Advise accordingly. Remind your middle schooler that friends don’t always keep secrets and not to tell their friends anything that they do not want others to know.
Offer advice on finding someone to eat with at lunch – find someone who is alone and sit with them. Get to know them.
Talk about their day: If anxieties come up, ask what would make his day better (this question may help to increase his problemsolving skills). Make suggestions as applicable.
Validate feelings: Put feelings into spoken words – “I sense you are feeling anxious about meeting new people and getting your homework assignments done.”
Be an encourager: Speak confidently of your middle schooler: “I know you can do that. You have what it takes.” Speak of them as you want them to become and they will more likely reach for greater things.
Share your own anxious moments in middle school: Share anxious moments you personally experienced and how you got through the situations.
Be an active school parent: Know what is going on at school and participate in all school events; help where parents can get involved. Contact teachers by e-mail or phone if you have concerns about school work or situations concerning your child.
Give information on bullying: Explain what bullying is: Bullying ranges from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats and mocking to extorting money and treasured possessions, shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use e-mail, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking websites and text messages to taunt others. Let your kids know if they’re being bullied or see it happening to someone else, telling a teacher or school counselor. It’s important to talk to someone about it. Don’t just brush it off. The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of self-worth and future relationships.
Characteristics of middle schoolers to remember:
• Feel awkward and insecure
• Have physical changes happening
• Are preoccupied with the way they look
• Feel the need to belong
• Test and challenge limits (need for more independence)
• Want privacy
• Make excuses
• Are developing a social sense toward others
• Are fantastic, energetic, enthusiastic and eager to learn new skills.
Remember, your middle schooler is not an adult; the decision-making area of their brains are not yet fully developed. They still need guidance and are half-way between adulthood and childhood, so don’t have heavy expectations as one would expect of an adult. Guide them, love them, pray for them and you will continue to see them, grow into responsible, caring human beings.