Top Ten Tips for the Transition to Middle School
- Be prepared for a roller coaster ride! This transition evokes a
wide variety of emotions, behaviors, and concerns for both children
and parents. It is a major stepping stone on the road to
becoming an adult. It is marked by several changes in educational
expectations and practices.
- Know what is happening developmentally for your adolescent.
Between the ages of 11 and 14, a child experiences his/her most
significant growth since infancy. Physical changes abound. The
sense of emotion is heightened and thinking becomes very egocentric.
Your child will show a clear desire for more independence.
He/she can often feel confused because expectations from
adults and peers seem at odds.
- Know what to expect academically. Your child will have more
opportunities for self-expression and decision making. Team
structure replaces contained classrooms. Your child will have
more homework, more long-term assignments, and more ownership
for academic performance. His/her organizational skills will
- Know what you will see socially. Your child will embrace strong
relationships with peers. He/she will show an increased interest in
sexual orientations. He/she will try to avoid exposure and embarrassment.
Technology such as instant messaging, email, cell
phones, and social web sites become important networking tools.
- Treat your child with respect-even if he/she does not always treat
you that way! Don't let his or her temporary behavior discourage
you from staying involved, cheering his/her sporting events or
musical performances, offering rides to the mall, and so on.
Despite appearances to the contrary, children need and want relationships
with their parents. Hold onto that knowledge when you
feel hurt or angry.
- Acknowledge and encourage your adolescent's need for independence.
You'll still need to set limits and provide structure, and
enforce rules and consequences. But remind your teen that you
trust him/her to make good choices, and that you will always be
available if a situation arises that is beyond a child's experience.
- Be available to guide and advise your child. Ask questions, and listen
to your child's responses. Help him/her explore solutions to
peer or school problems.
- Don't stop being a role model. For instance, do you talk on your
cell phone while driving? Do you always buckle your seat belt?
This is a good time to acknowledge your bad choices and correct
them. Your child can't make good, safe decisions when he/she is
away from you if you haven't modeled them.
- Keep your sense of humor. And remember to have fun with your
child. Spontaneous play and unexpected, shared laughter are great
ice breakers when times are tense.
- Love your adolescent. Inside that sometimes-contentious teen is
the wondrous child who brought you so much joy and who once
thought you hung the moon. In just a few years, he or she will
suddenly reappear-older, wiser, and once again clear-eyed
enough to recognize you as the moon-hanger. All will be right with
Margaret Hannah, M.Ed., is a Freedman Center
Presenter, the mother of three children, and the Executive Director of the
Freedman Center for Child and Family Development at the
Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.
We send our professional presenters to many area communities, delivering workshops to audiences of parents, educators, employee groups, and the general public.
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