I admit, I’m not the most sentimental of mothers. I’m not the mom who shed a tear as my first child entered kindergarten nor when my young adult graduated high school. As a mom of six kids, I’ve been through all these transitions knowing there’s still another child on the way up.
This year, my baby entered sixth grade. Yes, her five older siblings had transitioned smoothly from elementary school to middle school. But she’s the baby of the family. And, well, she’s been babied.
So I admit I was a little concerned.
Fortunately, I’ve become friends with quite a few middle school teachers over the years and they offer these tips for your child transitioning to middle school.
1 | Practice using a combination lock before the first day of school.
Is it right-left-right, or left-right-left? When you only have a few minutes between classes you won’t have time to fight with your lock. Keep the combination written somewhere safe and handy, perhaps your school agenda or even in your back pocket.
2 | You are going to make lots of new friends, but keep your old friends close, too.
Many school districts have multiple elementary schools feeding into one middle school. This means your BFF since first grade may no longer be your BFF in middle school. A new school and new opportunities can feel overwhelming at first, and old friends might temporarily be pushed aside. If you don’t have classes scheduled with your old friend, plan time to get together on weekends or during after school activities.
3 | Be sure you know where to go and how to get there.
Your mom can’t walk you in to class on the first day like she did in kindergarten, so attend school orientation days or ask to schedule a tour over the summer. Don’t depend on older siblings to guide you around either, they will be busy themselves getting to their new classrooms.
And two specific tips for parents:
1 | Allow time in the morning for showering and brushing teeth and let your child pick out his or her own deodorant and other toiletry items.
Preteen boys, and a few girls, tend to think a heavy dose of cologne or fragrant deodorant is a good enough substitute for a daily shower (it’s not). Remember that middle school is often the beginning of social awareness and the desire to fit in socially is intense. No one wants to be known as the stinky kid.
2 | Don’t get involved in your child’s social drama!
Parents of younger kids think nothing of calling up the other family to discuss a playground incident, but now is the time for children to learn to navigate social norms on their own. Middle schoolers are just beginning to learn to express themselves appropriately, so events can sometimes be exaggerated to make them more interesting or to downplay their own role in a situation. Unless the incident is an act of bullying or seems to be escalating, it’s usually best to let the kids work it out themselves.
But please keep in touch with your child’s teachers and make them aware of any issues in an effort to best equip them to teach your child. Let them know whether a phone call or email is the best way to reach you and whether it’s acceptable to call during your workday. Some schools offer text messaging or automated calls for upcoming event reminders. Be sure to sign up for any parent connect system your school uses to stay on top of grades and to prevent any unexpected report card meltdowns – both by student and parent.
It’s going to be okay! Your baby is growing up and becoming more independent. This is a time of big changes, but with love, guidance, and patience both you and your child will make it through middle school, and on to a new set of challenges in high school!