Transitioning to Middle School: How We Can Help Our Kids Succeed

Do you remember transitioning to middle school? I think I’d like to forget those years altogether. 

Middle school is one of the toughest transitions in a kid’s school career. They move from being surrounded by the same group of familiar faces to, what seems like, the thrashing teeth of an older and more experienced environment.

A new school, changing classes, and dealing with more responsibility can all be overwhelming for a young child. Especially true when considering that not only is the environment changing, but they are changing as well. By now, your kids have hit the glorious pubescent stages of  breakouts, awkwardness and emotional meltdowns. These raging emotions combined with the changes can cause a lot of problems. 

How can I help my child transition to middle school?

The transition to middle school won’t be the end of the world for either of you – trust me. There might be a few painful moments here and there, but that’s to be expected with any major transition. 

Likely, the first few days will go on as if nothing has changed. You’ll meet the teachers and discuss school expectations, then suddenly, the sweet little lunchboxes and heart-shaped sandwiches will be absolutely humiliating… and so it begins. 

So, without completely embarrassing your child (sarcasm!), there are a few things that we did with and without our child to make the transition a little smoother.

1. Talk to them about their concerns.

Whether they admit it or not, your child is probably anxious about the school year. There’s lots of extra stuff for him to manage: lockers, unlocking the padlock, switching classes, extra books. Reassure them that these changes are something everyone will be experiencing.

2. Visit the school and the teachers… without them.

Most middle schools offer an open house setting where parents meet the teachers and learn about the curriculum for the school year. Take this opportunity to bring up any concerns you have or your child has brought up. 

During the school year, parents are presented with several opportunities to meet the teachers and discuss progress of the students. We find this especially beneficial to attend without our child. This provides the teacher the opportunity to speak freely about the concerns that may exist, and eliminates any defensive feelings that may come from the student, too.

3. Be Prepared and Okay with a Drop in Grades

Because children are going through such a transition, grades often fall during the first year of middle school. Be prepared that even the most dedicated student may have a drop in grades. 

When first entering middle school, they have so much other “stuff” thrown at them. The pressures of fitting in, more homework, changes in puberty and other responsibilities can be a lot for a child. Having a casual conversation about where they struggle and how you can help, can take some weight off of their shoulders. 

4. Show Empathy

This goes hand-in-hand with these other tips. Ease up, parents! Middle school is a tough time, and we all know how those hormones will rage!

Showing a little extra patience and empathy will go a long way. 

A great example is with homework, if a child is visibly struggling and becoming frustrated with his work, calmly suggest they take a break. Go relax outside for 5-10 minutes, or grab a snack. Showing them that you do understand that they are frustrated and struggling will actually ease their anxiety about scoring a good grade.

5. Listen to your kids.

These kids will do such a great job at convincing us that everything is fine, especially the boys. When they do not want to talk, don’t make them. But when they begin offering information or expressing feelings, let them do it. 

In fact, as much as you might want to correct or coach them, say little. Let them lead the conversation and only prompt when necessary. Many times, silence will continue to provoke the conversation. 

Listening can teach us so much as parents.

Making the transition to middle school can be just as hard on the parents! With a little understanding, we can make this change so much easier on our kids.

Anna Kate Goshko

Hi, I'm Anna Kate, the face behind Project Stepmom. Project Stepmom exists to empower stepmoms through nurturing recipes and positive advice. As someone who has been on both sides of the proverbial blended family fence, I am on a mission to shift the negative stigma associated with blended families to a more positive and uplifting conversation.

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