The start of a brand new school year is always a little exciting, yet anxious, for most students, but if your child is about to begin middle school—or already has— it may be even more so. The move from elementary to middle school can feel like an enormous leap to a child and includes a variety of academic, social and other changes. Here are six tips to prepare your child for a smooth transition to middle school and set the stage for a great year—and overall middle school experience:
Promote organizational skills. Work with your child to establish and maintain a solid organizational system. If your child has historically kept a messy desk, room or backpack (or all of the above), it’s important to correct those bad habits by creating some ground rules on keeping the desk tidy, where schoolwork goes when it comes home and where to keep important school paperwork. Remember: your child may take up to eight different classes with eight different teachers. That means significantly more homework and paperwork to keep track of. Good organization is critical in middle school.
Work on time management. In middle school, your child will be expected to manage his or her own schedule, which means keeping track of assignments, handing in homework on time and more. Teach your child to use a planner or notebook to write down each day’s to-dos and responsibilities and keep track of longer assignments. At home, keep a family calendar in an accessible place and encourage your child to write important due dates, activities and other obligations on it.
Teach your child to prioritize. Along with time management is the essential ability to prioritize. In addition to requiring much more from your child academically, middle school offers many new social and extracurricular opportunities. It may be difficult for your student to decide what to get involved with, so help him or her learn to set goals and rank priorities from the very first day of school. During homework time, your student should make a list of the most important tasks in order to keep him or her focused and on task. When it comes to choosing outside activities, have him or her create a schedule that allows sufficient time for homework and sleep and teach him or her now that it is important not to overcommit oneself to too many things.
Hand over the reins. Like many well-meaning parents, up to this point in your child’s school career, you may have helped him or her stay organized on all fronts by giving frequent reminders and other help. Now is the time to communicate to your child that just like you have a job, his or her job is school. Your child must take ownership of his or her school work and grades, and he or she must understand that the choices he or she makes will have consequences—good or bad.
Help your child discover how he or she learns best. Middle school is a time for your child to more closely examine how he or she learns. Perhaps your child has already begun to think about this in elementary school, but if not, help him or her recognize what subjects and lessons are easier and harder and why. Talk about the various learning styles and help your child begin to appreciate his or her own preferences. Knowing this information will help him or her greatly as he or she begins to take a more active role in his or her education and learning.
Encourage your child to speak up. Middle school teachers are charged with helping students become more independent, critical thinkers and inspiring them to be engaged learners. Your child will gain the most from his or her middle school experience if he or she puts effort toward getting to know his or her teachers and showing initiative in the classroom. He or she can do this by asking questions, seeking help after school and being an active participant in the classroom.