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Getting ready for middle school

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By GreatSchools Staff

Teach time management

Teach your child to make the most of his time by always carrying a book or review sheet with him. Then odd moments like waiting for the bus or sitting in the doctor's office can be used as productive study time. It's also important to help your child establish an evening routine that includes time for homework and any other obligations your child has. This will help avoid the middle school time crunch that comes from having more homework and more time-consuming extracurricular activities.

Stay on top of your child's class schedule

Your child may want more independence about choosing her classes, but you should check with a guidance counselor to be sure she's meeting all requirements and taking all the classes she'll need for high school.

Keep the lines of communication open

Even if it seems as if he doesn't want to talk to you, it's important for you to be available for your middle schooler. Psychologist and parent-child communication expert Dr. Lawrence Kutner recommends these strategies for talking to your middle schooler: Talk with your child frequently about small issues. If he won't tell you how baseball practice went, he won't open up to you about more important issues either. He also recommends that parents talk to kids while driving or cooking, instead of sitting down directly across a table for a chat. It can be less threatening for middle schoolers to talk if they don't have to make direct eye contact. He also encourages parents of middle schoolers to be persistent: "Parents aren't encouraged [by their kids] to keep communicating and kids might not look like they're listening, but they really are."

Beware the bully

Many children are afraid of being bullied in middle school, and it's a growing problem in our schools. Fortunately, many schools now have rules in place for preventing and managing bullying; be sure to find out if your school has such a policy. Teach your child what to do if a bully targets her. suggests telling kids to try not to show their anger in front of the bully, because that will just make the bully feel powerful. Children should ignore the bully and walk away if they can. They should also tell an adult they trust what is happening. You can emphasize to your child that it is not being a tattletale to tell an adult about bullying. Also let your child know that it is not a good idea to fight or bully back. It could get her in trouble, and it is hard to know how the bully will react. If there is a particular time or place when your child often faces a bully, suggest that she try to enlist a friend to be there with her. Bullies are less likely to target a pair.

For more advice on how to help your middle schooler, see Helping Your Child through Early Adolescence from the U.S. Department of Education.

Comments from readers

"This is a gr8 site just bullying really bad at my school "
"I think this is a great way to find the right school for my child "
"I'm 11 yrs old and Im starting my first yr of middle school in a NEW STATE AND NEW SCHOOL. Im not used to the school.I will be walking into the school alone and wont be able to find nothing.Im scared.these tips kind of helped but Im SCARED!!! "
"Bullying. It is cruel. Not enough is being done about it.I am very disappointed with the schools tolerating this kind of behavior.If they can't do there job then fire them."
"Its great that all kids are helped."
"I have been going to Middle School since 6th grade. I have switched schools and am now going to Junior high. Being in school is so much fun!!!!! i love the basketball games and all my friends just hanging out. No advice. Just try to keep up while having fun!"
" This sounds like it can be very helpful. Adjustment to a better level of learning."
"I am a 5th grader and going into middle school next school year. I am excited yet anxious. Actually I've been dying to go to middle school. My friends say take the time to enjoy all the easy fun stuff now they also say your first year will be tough. Because in 6th grade you have to study more in order to ace test and many of my A student friends did not get A's on their first report card so I have to focus. But I think this site prepared me more for what I didn't already know."
"Excellent website! Thank you all!"
"I am a fifth grader and don't think that a girl like me will have to worry to much about middle school. But I do want to be prepared for whats ahead. This website gave me a heads up on the future. I wont know where it takes me but i will have a bit of an idea at least."
"i love this website but i wish it had more results"
"I have a sixth grader that has been held back for his maturity level is low. I also want to mention he is on medication for his condition and finally we have a combineation that works. What can I do to help him play ccatch up? It seems he missed the basics from 3rd grade to 5th grade. His comprehintion is below and math skills are below. With that and his maturity level low I want to help him through the summer. What work books could you recomend that I get to help him. "
"Practical points for parents headed into the middle school years. The issue of bullying and now cyberbullying has many parents worried. As you suggested the 'buddy system' works well when kids have the option to connect with a friend. Often though, kids find themselves facing bullies either while alone in the halls or when they return home at the end of the day. Cyberbullying (bullying through text or instant messages or through threatening messages on a social media site like Facebook or MySpace) now comprises a growing number of bullying incidents. In addition to the ideas presented here I would suggest, 6 Signs of bullying: 1. Reluctance to leave home. If your normally social child chooses to stay home rather than go out with friends, it may be because of a bully. Bullying can occur at school as well as at off campus social events. 2. Missing activities. Declining to attend extracurricular activities may be a sign that your child is being bullied. 3. 'Drive me, please!� A child who pleads with you to drive him to school rather than taking his normal bus route may be trying to avoid confrontations on the bus. With a load of twenty-plus middle schoolers, bullying can easily go unseen on bus trips. 4. Unexplained cuts or bruises. If your child can’t offer a reasonable explanation for the appearance of any unusual marks on her body, it’s time to investigate. 5. Increased sadness or anxiety. Adolescents tend to be moody; however, a sudden increase in crying outbursts and anxiety levels could be the result of a bully. 6. Steadily decreasing academic performance. A dip from 95% on one test to 85% on the next doesn’t warrant a full-scale investigation. But repeated low scores, missed assignments, or comments from your child’s teachers about declining performance are signals that may mean there are bullying issues at play. Even if you suspect your child is being bullied, the question of what to do about it can be a difficult one to answer – especially if your child hesitates to communicate with you. Yet there are three things you can do to unearth a problem that don’t require a flood of details directly from the child: Joe Bruzzese"
"Wow This Really Helped Me Alot...Thanks So Very Much I Hope That When I Go To 6TH. GRADE I Wont get into trouble but i will make alot of new FRIENDS.THANKS AGAIN"
"My son will be starting Middle school in August and I am worried about bullying and my son being overwhelmed at a new school. Please help me feel reassured."
"I have not been able to find any info on schools other than academic info. I live in a suburban area known for it's good schools, but in trying to find a good middle school I am more concerned with the extent of violence, drug and alcohol problems and teenage pregnancy (because the academics are already covered). In spite of the good academic standing of my daughter's school, I hear that there are frequent police visits and many behavior problems. The profanity I hear is shocking and I believe that many, many of these kids are sexually active. It's my understanding that the other jr. high schools in the area are just as bad. We have an open schools district and I believe I can even take her to another district, but how can I find out about the social problems of a particular school? Thank you, Susan "
"My child has been attending this school and the way they are treating us is like a remarkable way. The schools give my child many education and homework. My child once said this, ' I LOVE every school and homework!!!! I'll say, is the BEST WAY to find SCHOOLS!!!"
"This is really good but is there any way that you are able to make a page or two for the middle-schooler and how to get from class to class in uder 4 mintues or what ever most schools give a child to get to and from a class. Tank-you very much but other than that it is really good and by the way I am a child that is in 5th grade about to go to middle school. But thank-you very much."
"Thank you so much for such a great website! It's very reassuring to have Great Schools to inform and connect us with other parents with similar concerns. Now that I've found you I don't know what I would do without you! Your tips for Middle School, which I have just read, are fantastic. My son will start Middle School next year. I did not go though the American school system myself so I didn't know what to expect. Your tips have helped me have a little insight. It's very reassuring to be able to find answers on your website whenever I need them. Again, thank you."
"Well it did help alot since i am going to middle school in 2 weeks "
"This information was very helpful Espesially the parts about bullying and things like that. Thank you very much, now i know how to keep safe in Middle School!"
"I thought this info on middle school is pretty outstanding!!!"
"Excelent article. Good tips that help overcome the nervousness of going to middle school."
"Great article -- good review for upcoming changes. However, it would be even better if sent out a little earlier, before school has actually started, to allow time to actually DO the things mentioned. ;.) "
"I am a first year middle school parent. This article prepared me in ways I hadn't had time to think about. I printed a copy to send to school for my daughter's homeroom. I'm certain it will be a blessing for others as well. Thanks for your insight and abundance of information."
"The article was very helpful. my daugter is in middle school. Thank you."
"Great article, thanks for your constant 'reading my mind articles' - although my daughter is in PRE - K, already on my mind! "
"im mariah mansfield im 11 yrs old and going into the 6th grade nervous and excited at the same time.Im frightened of being bullied and scared if i can keep up with the middle school work. I need some advice and please, quickly!"