Do you have a child about to make the leap from elementary to middle school?
If this is your first child to make this move you may be wondering what those first days and weeks may be like. Having spent many years teaching middle school and as the parent of a middle schooler, here are some things to expect from your new middle schooler.
They are nervous
Even if they don’t act like it, or even if they deny it, they are. Some new middle schoolers may not even know they are nervous until they walk into the building for the first time.
Think about it, they are moving from being the top dogs in their elementary school to the bottom rung of middle school. For some kids, this is the first new school they have attended since kindergarten! Having to move between classes and having only a few minutes to do it. And don’t even get me started on the existential dread that exists around having to open a locker.
It’s a lot of changes quickly, so it makes sense to have some nerves. Teachers are prepared for this and do all they can to help students feel comfortable, but the nerves may stick around for a while.
Prepare at Home
This can manifest itself at home in lots of ways, most often before school starts. Some kids will mention they are nervous or scared, while others will keep it to themselves. They may be reluctant to go back to school shopping or to talk about middle school. If you ask them what they are most excited about they may respond with the classic “I don’t know” or “nothing” because they really may not know what to expect.
It is hard to articulate being excited about an experience that is brand new, so cut them some slack. As parents, we can help reassure our middle schoolers by sharing our excitement for this change for them. Lockers? How cool, let’s get a mirror or a pencil holder! If you happen to have a combination lock around show them how to use it and then leave it out so they can practice on their own.
After school has started you can help your child deal with their nerves by asking them to talk about school, but be specific. If you ask the general “Tell me about your day” or “What is a great thing that happened today” your child may struggle to respond. If they are still trying to figure out how middle school works and how they fit into it, they may not have detailed answers for you.
Show your interest by being specific about one or two things a night for the first few weeks. Tell me about how lunch is different in middle school? What is it like getting to move classrooms for each class? Keep in mind you will only get yes or no responses if you ask yes or no questions.
Relationships will change. And change is hard.
Middle school is all about change.
I have seen it time and time again; two students start the year as BFFs but they drift apart as new social groups form. Sometimes the split is amicable. Other times one person remains feeling left out and unsure what to do next.
On the other end of the spectrum, new friendships will bloom as new social groups will be formed. A larger student body means kids can find others with the same interests they have. Maybe your child was one of the few people at their elementary school into anime; rest assured they will meet other people who are as into it as they are!
One of the other relationships that may change as you parent a middle schooler is your relationship with them. As middle schoolers start to make friends based on commonalities other than neighborhoods and elementary school classes, those friendships can take on a deeper meaning. In middle school, kids start going to each other for advice rather than straight to mom and dad. That can be jarring, but it is a normal part of adolescence.
As a parent, this change can be a difficult one to support your child through for a variety of reasons. First, you may not even know their relationships are changing. Another reason might be our own struggle when long-lasting friendships change. Maybe we grew to care for our child’s elementary school friends or their parents.
The best advice I can give you is to work hard to keep communication lines open with your middle schooler. Ask them about friends, especially if they are talking or texting with them. If your child is struggling with the loss of a friendship that can manifest itself as sadness or even apathy at home.
Let your child know you are there for them just like you always have been. Hopefully, they will open up to you and you can help support them during this time. We know this is the first of many relationships that may fizzle out but this may be a first for your child so honor the experience.
Things may be tough some days but remember this, middle schoolers are hilarious!
Despite all the changes that take place as kids transition to middle school, along with all the hormonal changes going on (that is a whole different post!) they are still kids. They are silly, funny, and adventurous. It is a pretty great thing as a teacher to get to see kids walk the line between middle schoolers and elementary students for the first year of middle school. They are becoming more mature, but can still break into fits of laughter over nothing at all.
Take advantage of this as a parent as you watch your middle schooler develop a personality all their own. Help them navigate this time by giving them space to change while still letting them play and be silly.