Easing the Transition to Middle or High School
The significant changes that come for children starting middle school and high school are often a combination of fun and stress.
Parents can be of great aid to their kids, especially when they consider the level of development for kids at these ages. As you consider the transitions, also consider these insights to help your child achieve success.
Stepping Up Into Middle School
Imagine going to work and suddenly having three or four offices, all in different locations, four bosses instead of one and a sea of unfamiliar faces as coworkers. That would be unnerving for anyone, but it’s the reality middle-school-age children face. So patience is a key; understanding this huge shift is important.
The physical and social changes of puberty and adolescence begin when kids are around 11-13 years old. Girls usually start puberty a few years before boys, hence the suddenly taller girls in school photos. That lasts a while, and along with it comes changes in vocal tone, acne and the development of body hair. They all add up and they can all add to the stress children experience.
Socially, early adolescence is when peer relationships begin to become more important to children. As a parent, you’ll start to see how peers have bigger influences on your child. The insight of parents or teachers begins to become less important to them, and that can be frustrating.
Children also begin developing physical attractions, and they may start to think about dating. For parents, it’s helpful to remember the natural and normal attributes of this age.
You can prepare for these strange and stress-producing situations, along with those that come with schoolwork. Aim to help your child develop list-making habits; it’s a good way to keep track of homework. Staying busy with projects such as chores, sports, band or chorus and reading are also great ways to help kids be ready for success in school.
Having an honest discussion with your seventh or eighth grader about drugs and dating relationships can be awkward, but at some point they will hear about those things. So “just not discussing” it won’t prevent them from learning about these risky behaviors – one that could get them into trouble. So be brave and have “the talk” even if it seems frightening.
Planning For High School Achievement
Most kids are used to the classroom changes and teacher changes that continue through high school once they complete middle school, but starting in the ninth grade, kids begin thinking about their lives beyond high school. Some may question why they are even going to school.
Talk to your teens about getting involved in passions or activities they enjoy – it can help them set goals. Be it sports, music, theater, outdoor activities, or projects such as mechanics, carpentry, computers – anything really – they can try things out. Your encouragement and support will go a long way toward helping them find their niche.
Parents often find their children are mad about something that mom and dad don’t really like, or know, and that can be frustrating. It’s also a good chance for the parents to learn.
Once the uncomfortable topics such as drugs, depression and dating are introduced when kids are in middle school, it’s important to keep talking about them. Help your child make healthy choices and feel comfortable speaking to you.
Kids of all ages should establish sleep routines for school well in advance of the first day, and this applies to older kids who may think they need less. They need that sleep, so enforce the rules and help them get in a good habit – model it as best you can.
Finding Allies in Face of Challenges
Students who struggle in school with grades may face concentration challenges. While we know more about learning disabilities such as dyslexia, they are still under-recognized too often.
Seek support from your family doctor or discuss it with specialists within your district. Some kids develop attention-deficit disorder (ADHD) and depression and anxiety in high school, and again, working with teachers, your doctor and other adults is always best.
Social situations such bullying or personality conflicts with teachers will come up more in high school as well, and reconfirm the importance of open communication, not only between parents and children, but also with the school administration.