School is underway and everyone is settling into the rhythm of fall, or so it seems. It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief and see the kids off to school each morning and welcome them home at night and assume all is well when they’re off doing their day. However, if your child is in their first year of middle school, it’s important to check in and make sure they’re adjusting and thriving. There are countless articles about preparing a child for the rigors and changes that come with entering middle school, however the topic of assessing if they are actually doing OK is often overlooked.
In an article entitled, “Smoothing Your Child’s Transition to Middle School,” a writer from the GreatSchools.org staff said, “Most students make the adjustment to the routines and demands of middle school within a couple months.”
Communication with your child, and potentially their teachers, is key in understanding if your middle schooler is succeeding. Kelly Mueller, Dixon-Smith Middle School math teacher, said teachers quickly get a feel for who is and isn’t adapting. Students successfully acclimating arrive to class on time with the necessary materials and completed homework. They are able to, as Mueller put it, “roll with others,” which means they are good at interpreting social cues from their peers. For example, if a student is bumped in the hallway between classes, she understands she’s not necessarily being targeted for bullying. She can see the hallway is crowded and it’s natural to get jostled a bit as everyone rushes to their next destination.
Mueller offered a list of warning signs for caregivers to watch for:
● Child complains at home about school (i.e. being picked on by other students or teachers), especially within the first month.
● Child repeatedly forgets school items at home, or a teacher mentions they are being left in the locker.
● Child has trouble completing homework on time.
● Child refuses to use the agenda provided by the school to keep them organized.
Communication with your child, and potentially their teachers, is key in understanding if your middle schooler is succeeding.
She encouraged parents to foster independence while creating structure for the child. The best ways to help your student are to insist upon seeing their organizer, list of assignments and finished homework every day.
Social changes are another common hurdle in a new middle schooler’s life. Friends from their elementary days may shift groups as their interests evolve. Sharon Sevier of ParentToolKit.com said to encourage your son or daughter to branch out in their friendships and make an effort to connect with new people. She also said to identify your child’s passions and look for ways to get them involved in groups outside of school.
Middle school can seem like a daunting place for both parents and kids, but with some teamwork and flexibility it can be a healthy, memorable experience for everyone.