Welcome to Middle School: Easing Your Child’s Anxiety
Things are about to change in a big way for you and your soon-to-be middle schooler. You’re both bound to be anxious about this transition, but for different reasons. For you, it’s dealing with peer pressure, mood swings, and managing increased homework. For your middle schooler, it’s finding classes, eating alone at lunch, making the soccer team, and worrying about friends who may be going to a different middle school.
It’s normal for you and your kids to feel anxious. Transitions of any kind often bring fear and worry along with new and unfamiliar territory. To reduce some of that stress, try to attend all the events the school holds before school starts.
Encourage your child to talk with their new teachers at meet and greets. Walk the hallways repeatedly if that is what it takes for them to get a good mental image of their wing, where homeroom is, the cafeteria, bathrooms, locker, office, and so on. Practice how to work a combination lock so your child can avoid those struggles the first week of school. Your child may also be worried about how to find you in the carpool line or where the buses park. Ask about the details to ease first day anxiety.
Take advantage of any summer programs offered at the school. Whether they're orientation programs or a recreational camp that's being held at your location, it's a good opportunity to get to know the campus.
Friends or Foes?
Your child may have a core group of friends from elementary following them to middle school, but sometimes school boundaries will dictate friends going to different schools. If your child's friend will be attending the same middle school, have them walk the school together on tours. When it comes time to picking lockers, they may even have the opportunity to grab a couple close together. Having a friendly face around during those first weeks will go along way in easing your child's anxiety.
Peer pressure can be pretty intense in middle school. Encourage them to take their time when finding new friends. Keep communicating your family values and be eager to listen anytime they want to share. They will be apt to come to you with questions and concerns about their peers if you do. Encourage them to settle into the daily routine of school before seeking out new friends. Waiting to see how people interact with others and who they hang out with will give your child insight on who they may want to steer clear of, and who would be a good friend.
Your middle school may have a number of new offerings that your elementary school didn't. Lunch clubs or after school clubs are a fun way for your child to pursue their interests while meeting like-minded peers. Sports teams, orchestra, and other extracurricular activities are also opportunities to get to know new people. Find out what your school offers and if there are any activities that align with your child.
During the first few weeks of school, you may want to organize get-togethers with some of your child's previous friends. If they also happen to attend the new middle school, all the better. In any case, having the comfort of a social life will ease any feelings of loneliness that come with the transition.
Middle school will be the birth of a new social age. Having friends, being accepted by friends, and hanging out with friends will just about trump any activity – family or academic. One way they can accomplish this is through extra-curricular activities.
It’s good to be busy with sports, music, and academic clubs, but make sure they are there for the right reason. After all, these can get expensive and time consuming when you’re driving and volunteering to help. You may want to limit the amount of activities and urge them to pursue ones they are genuinely interested in.
When It Comes to Academics
Orientation sessions should bring you up to speed on the best way to communicate with teachers, how to find homework assignments online, and other resources your child needs to know.
Prior to the first day of school, take a look at the school's website. Make sure you sign up for newsletters and other outgoing communications. Consider downloading a calendar app to help your child manage time and projects before the workload gets too heavy.
Expect that with all the changes going on, your child's first report card could be a bit of a shock. Don't worry and don't over-react. This is the time for your child to gain greater independence and responsibility for their own work. The academics are important but the life skills they'll be learning in those first few months are truly critical. Some slippage is common and recoverable. Focus on the bigger picture and the learning they've put into become more mature and independent. In the long run, the middle school grades really won't matter much.
Return of the Terrible Two’s
As your child develops physically and emotionally, expect turmoil. There will be times that your middle schooler will act like an irrational toddler or an absolute angel. Experts have found the adolescent brain doesn’t fully develop until age of twenty-four. Roll with the punches. Pay attention to the daily drama. Listen, but don’t rush in to offer suggestions on how to solve their problems. These experiences will teach them how to cope later in life.
Show you’re interested in their life, and they will invite you into theirs. Peer pressure and bullying can have devastating consequences, but if you’re present, you can stand alongside them and empower them through it. Keep calm, be firm yet nurturing, and you’ll create a home where your child can navigate the middle school waters with assurance that you’ll have their back.
How do you plan on easing your middle schooler’s worries? Share your advice with us!