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Smoothing your child's transition to middle school

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By Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.

Some tips to help ease her academic concerns:

  • If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), meet with the middle school IEP team no later than the spring before your child enters the new school. Discuss the qualities of the "ideal" teacher for your child to help ensure the best placements.
  • Meet with teachers early in the school year. Give them a profile of your child's strengths and where she needs help.
  • Encourage teachers to continue using strategies that have worked for your child in the past, such as writing homework assignments on the board, or assigning your child a "homework buddy" she can contact if she forgets what her assignments are. If the school has a homework hotline, make sure your child knows how to use it.
  • Help your student with time management skills. Work together on a schedule for study time, break time, chores, etc.
  • Work out an organizational system with your student. Acknowledge and make allowances for her anxiety; at first, she may need to carry everything for all classes all the time in order to feel prepared.
  • Avoid overreacting to grades. Making sure your child gets a handle on how to meet the demands of the new school is the critical factor in the early weeks.
  • Stay connected to your child's school work. Try to teach your student to work more independently while supporting her enough to give her confidence.
  • Go to back-to-school night, open houses, parent-teacher conferences and other events where you can connect with your child's teachers.
  • Help your child be her own advocate. Encourage her to discuss problems and solutions with teachers on her own, but be ready to step in and help as needed.

The best way to help your child through this transition is to keep a positive attitude about middle school. You may remember how clueless, awkward, and self-conscious you felt at that age. Empathize with her if she feels the same way, and tell her it's normal for middle school students to experience those fears and emotions. Reassure her that she will become more comfortable and confident with time. Remind your child that the school and the teachers want her to be successful and that she has what it takes to make it all work.

Most students make the adjustment to the routines and demands of middle school within a couple months. If your child is still struggling as fall gives way to winter, then a meeting with her counselor may be in order. Together, you, your student and the counselor can pinpoint specific trouble spots and brainstorm ways to get things on track.

Try to give your tween plenty of information about how things will work in middle school, but be careful not to overload her. Be proactive in sharing information with her while also encouraging her to ask questions. To prepare for these conversations, you may want to read through the "Middle School Transition Tips for Parents" — and offer your child the "Middle School Transition Tips for Kids." The more she knows up front, the more comfortable she'll be on the first day, and beyond.

Comments from readers

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