8 Things Every Parent Should Know Before Their Child Starts Middle School

Image source: Shutterstock
Image source: Shutterstock

In four short days everything will change. My son will walk through the student entrance of his new high school a gawky freshman and emerge a graduating senior in only four short years.

I don’t know how we got here so fast. I didn’t intend to speed through this parenting road trip. It feels as though the moment the gas light came on, elementary school was left in the dust. A quick glance in the rear view mirror and middle school has disappeared from sight.

But just because those middle school miles passed quickly, doesn’t mean the drive was easy. White-knuckling that tricky tween terrain taught us a few valuable secrets of middle school success. So listen up and listen good, because those miles stuck in the middle don’t have to suck — for either of you.

1. Stop, collaborate, and listen.

School is back with a brand new edition … and parents, you’re totally freaking out, right? I get it, but before you let your own middle school misgivings influence your mindset, take a much-needed breather. Yes, being old enough to have a middle schooler is weird. No, your baby isn’t a baby anymore, but ready or not, here they come to the land of murky middleness. You can help in a big way by collaborating with your child’s teachers to best support their academic transition. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. And most importantly, be there. You survived middle school once; I promise you can do it again.

2. Who they gonna call?

Chances are good your child will have classes with kids they don’t know. Chances are even better they’ll have a million questions about homework. Who are they going to call? Encourage your child to exchange phone numbers with at least one fellow student in every class that they can turn to in times of homework crisis. Because it’s not a matter of if they’ll have questions, but when.

3. Organize, organize, organize.

We’re not in elementary school anymore. With six teachers, six syllabi, and six billion papers, organization is an absolute must. Once you establish your student’s binder must-haves, reserve special places for homework, notes, reports, and those oh-so-easy to lose index cards. Encourage your child to clean out their backpacks weekly, because there’s no point in carrying everything if they can’t find anything.

4. Don’t throw away anything – no homework, no class work, no notes. Ever.

… at least not until you receive their official report card. Middle school means scores of students producing massive amounts of paperwork that all have to be graded and recorded. And hey, teachers make mistakes sometimes. When grading errors occur, you’ll be glad your child’s chance at academic redemption isn’t sitting in a landfill somewhere. My son was able to dispute his final grade from a D to a B on account of a mix-up all because he’d saved his work.

5. Time after time, time management matters.

What seems impossible for your middle school student might very well be without proper time management skills. As evidenced from the 8th grade science project that nearly tore our family apart, I’ll tell you transparency matters. Managing Father Time takes practice and you can help your child take control of the clock by reviewing classroom agendas and talking honestly about how much time each assignment requires. The more information you have to develop a workable schedule with your student, the more successful they will be.

6. Stop being the middle guy.

Middle school is designed to introduce your child to the fine art of taking care of business. When my son’s Language Arts teacher replied to my 8th email in as many weeks by saying, “I’m always happy to communicate with you, but this is something your son can always talk to me about in class,” I realized she was absolutely right. He was the one sitting in class each day with his teacher. He was the one who had questions. I was just the middle guy, or rather, meddling mom who wasn’t helping him help himself. When I began relying on my son to communicate directly with his teachers, he began to recognize the power behind his voice.

7. Adopt a “watch and wait” attitude.

Like most parents, I’m busy. I don’t want to wait for four Ds to come home before something changes, but according to my son, jumping in too quickly to “help” didn’t actually help at all. My son resented my hyper-reactive habits because they made him feel as though I didn’t trust him to find solutions in his own time and in his own way. Offer support, hang back, and wait. If your child needs help, you can trust them to ask.

8. People who need parents.

In elementary school, you used to chat with parents at pick-up and fraternize at school functions. But middle school is different; it’s all kids and teachers and hardly a parent in sight. Where did all the parents go? I really don’t know, but opportunities to connect with fellow parents are few. So if you’re a people who needs parents like I do, hang on tight to your elementary school moms and dads, because in middle school, you’re likely to value their support more than ever.

Do you have any junior high hacks or pearls of middle school wisdom to share with your fellow parents? We want to hear them!

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