Who do I sit with at lunch? How can I juggle several classes with different teachers? How much homework will I have?
These are just a fraction of the questions students transitioning from elementary school are likely to have as they navigate middle school--and chances are high that families share these same questions about new academic and social expectations. Here is advice on how to help your child transition to middle school--from families and staff who have been there!.
- Encourage exploration. According to Taylor Wegmann, a social worker at KIPP Whittier Middle, allowing your child to explore new opportunities as they enter middle school is vital. Families can foster emotional growth by providing kids with opportunities to make choices in a safe and supportive way. Allowing kids to choose what club or sport they'd like to join after school, what color book bag they'd like to use, or which friends to play with helps kids begin to navigate their worlds independently, said Wegmann.
- Mistakes are OK. Middle schoolers dont always get it right--socially or academically. But making mistakes helps make kids more resilient as they go through life, said Wegmann. Jen Scott is the parent of three children, two of whom attend middle school at KIPP Rise Academy in Newark. Her oldest is college-bound after graduating from KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy. Scott believes failure is vital to academic success in middle school. I let them go through the struggle. I didnt make excuses for them. If they didnt have their homework, they didnt have their homework. Letting them face some consequences helped them become more responsible going into higher grades, she said.
- Communicate with staff. Our team is here to support your child academically and socially. I reached out to the school social worker when I knew my youngest was struggling, said Scott. I asked her to keep an eye out for her and check in, and she did, she added. When it comes to academics, communicate with your teachers! My seventh grader was struggling with her vocabulary words, so everyday her advisory teacher Mark Joseph and I would text about how many pages shed read to make sure she was keeping up with her reading, said Scott.
- Start preparing early. Tameeka Walden is the parent of a fourth grader at KIPP Life Academy in Newark and also leads the schools Parent Teacher Association. She plans to bring her daughter to visit her future middle school well in advance of her first day, so she can become familiar with the school and learn the lay of the land. The first thing that families should do is visit the middle school with your kids, go meet your school leader and see it firsthand--you can also ask to learn more about the curriculum, said Walden. She adds that families can go the extra mile to start preparing their children academically too. Ive been working with my daughter on her writing, a skill I know shell need going into middle school, she said.
Moving up to middle school is a big change for kids and may leave them feeling anxious--but know that together we can help your child develop their confidence, both socially and academically. As the year moves along, dont forget to check in with your child on how s/he is handling the transition to provide support as s/he conquers new challenges.