How You AND Your Child Can Successfully Survive Middle School

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The transition from elementary school to middle school can be difficult for many children — and for many parents, too. Although it’s initially only a step up of one grade, this is a big jump both academically and socially.

7 terrific tips for successfully surviving middle school

Dr Lauren Adler, Westchester Health Pediatrics

Lauren Adler, MD

As parents who have nurtured and cared for our children for the past 11 years, it may be difficult to give them up to a bigger world. However, we must. For the middle schoolers themselves, they are often afraid of the unknown and feeling unprepared for the changes that lay ahead.

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, this is where we can help. Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds (thousands?) of our young patients wade into the choppy waters of middle school and navigate them just fine. To help your child be successful in middle school, here are 7 proven, kid- and parent-tested tips.

1. Academically, now for the first time students will have more than one core teacher.

They are expected to navigate a new, often larger building — getting from class to class in “only three minutes,” as my daughter likes to point out to me. There are lockers to open, combinations to remember and schedules to learn. Helping your child become organized and stay organized from the beginning of the school year until summer break is of the utmost importance.

2. From the first week of school, help your child memorize his/her class schedule so they know where they need to be and when.

Make sure they have the right school supplies with enough folders and binders to help them stay organized.

3. Independence is one of the big things your middle schooler needs to learn this year.

However, it is still your responsibility to stay on top of your child’s assignments to make sure he/she knows what is due and when. There will probably be a lot more homework to be done, so when your child comes home from school, talk about his/her day and check in to see what work they have to do. Provide your son or daughter with a healthy snack and then make sure your child has a quiet place to sit and do their work with minimal distractions.

4. Some schools do not automatically have parent-teacher conferences.

If this is the case in your district, set up an appointment early in the year to lay out any concerns you may have about your child and to see if your child’s teacher has any early concerns. Dealing early with any academic or adjustment problems will ensure they do not get out of control. Set up another appointment for some time after January to make sure that any problems have been corrected and also that there are no new issues.

5. While academics are clearly an important part of middle school, social issues often dominate the scene for many children.

Children as young as 10 and 11 are mixed in with pre-teens and teens of 13 and 14. Puberty makes its appearance during middle school, causing some students to still be children and others to be on their way to young adulthood. It is a hard balance to both allow your child to grow and stretch his/her wings while still maintaining your protective influence on them. Talking, talking, talking is still the best advice.

6. Maintain an ongoing open dialogue with your child about the changes their body is going through, dating, friendships, drugs and tobacco.

There are some great books that discuss these topics in an unbiased, age-appropriate manner that I recommend. For girls, there is The Care and Keeping of You by the American Girl Doll series, and for boys, The Boy’s Body Book by Kelli Dunham.

7. As if middle school was not hard enough for us when we were young, our children now have the added responsibility of learning how to navigate friendships through email, texting and social media.

Make sure your child understands the limitations and potential dangers of using these methods of communication. Young people often do not have the forethought to realize that images and words put into cyberspace can travel quickly and are there forever. If your child has his/her own phone, computer or other device, you must monitor usage on a regular basis. At this age, it is not a violation of their privacy to routinely read your children’s emails and texts or check their internet history…rather, it is your responsibility as a parent to make sure they are safe.

Now let them go…they’ll be fine!

You might also find these pages helpful from our Westchester Health Pediatrics website:

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

For more back-to-school advice, tips and ideas, get our
“BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE: 10 Key Things Parents Should Know As Their Child Returns To School” by clicking here.

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About the Author: ML Ball