The move to middle school is a big moment in your child's life. It will impact their social and academic careers for years to come. It is alright for you and your child to view this move with some trepidation at first, but remember that with a little work you can ease the transition and set the stage to help your child succeed in middle school. The worst thing that you can do at this time in your child's life is to back off.
Childhood Success in Middle School
Many parents who are very involved in their child's academic life during elementary school assume that their child's growing independence is a sign that they do not need to monitor their child's studies so closely. Middle school is a transitional time, however, and if you back off just when your student needs you, then you are sending the wrong message to your child at a delicate point in their development. Helping your child succeed in middle school may mean altering they way you monitor their studies, but it should not mean that you stop altogether.
The Problems Middle School Students Face
Most middle school students face three main issues when it comes to successful schoolwork. These are:
- On-Task Learning
Most schools have strategies in place to address these issues, but it is up to you to enforce these ideas at home. Your child's teachers simply cannot do the work alone, nor should they have to. As your child moves into a school day with multiple classes and teachers, give them the tools to help navigate the situation. Teach your child to employ to-do lists, planners, and organizers.
Pick out school supplies designed to help them keep their papers and assignments organized and help them to make sure that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. On-task learning and relevance may seem more difficult for you to assist with, but you can still make the effort at home.
Get Involved and Stay Involved
This is the most important thing that you can do to ensure your student's success in middle school. You should be involved in all areas of your child's life at this age, not just the academic ones. You need to know what your child is doing and who your child is doing it with at all times in order to keep track of their lives.
Academically speaking, you should make sure that you have met and spoken with your child's teachers, that you are discussing your child's studies with them in-depth, and that you know that their assignments are getting done. You should also be displaying pride and interest in your child's extracurricular activities. This is a time for building your relationship with your child even as they become more independent.
Finally, do not hesitate to enforce rules and discipline your child. At this time in their lives, children are testing the boundaries and they need to be reinforced while your child is still listening to you.
Monitor Your Child's Social Circle
Beyond just academics, you need to make sure you're keeping tabs on the people your child is spending time with. The wrong influences can have a catastrophic effect on your child's development at this stage. Middle schoolers often begin to rebel against rules and expectations, so making sure your child is around the right children is important.
You don't need to be a helicopter parent, but you should be aware of the type of people your child is spending time with. Invite them over to your house to see what they are like, and meet their parents if you can. Watch your child's behavior and how it may shift if they begin hanging around new people. If you begin to see bad habits cropping up, consider whether these are coming from their new friends.
Your middle schooler won't like it if you tell them that they can't spend time with a certain friend any longer. Generally, it is best to begin by having a conversation with your child about the matter. Make sure they understand that just because a friend of theirs is doing something wrong, doesn't mean they get a free pass to do so as well.
In severe circumstances, it may be worth considering a transfer to a different school. This is usually only necessary when your child is surrounded by a number of bad influences, or when your child is being swayed to partake in very severe activities. Transferring can also be a good option if your child is being bullied or subjected to intense peer pressure that is affecting their mental health.
Middle School Success in the News
Following the news can help you stay up-to-date with the latest events that are relevant to your middle schooler. Certain news articles can also help you learn new strategies for helping your child achieve the greatest success possible.
A recent article from We Are Teachers highlighted six traits that the best middle schoolers have. Parental support is at the top of this list, understandably. Respect for themselves, their peers, and their educators was also highlighted as an important trait. Coachability, critical thinking, emotional/social intelligence, and intrinsic motivation are the other traits that teachers noted make for a successful middle schooler. If your child struggles in any of these areas, intervene now to give them a greater chance at success later on.
Another news article noted that proper sleep is critical to a middle schooler's proper development and success. A study found that middle schoolers who weren't getting adequate sleep generally performed worse than their peers, and also suffered socially. Making sure your child gets eight hours of sleep every night is essential to their success in school and with their peers. You can help ensure your child gets enough sleep by regulating their bed time, and restricting access to items that may distract them from sleeping. Hopefully, your child will be tired enough from their day at school to sleep soundly. If your child is consistently struggling with sleep, talk to their doctor.