I absolutely loved the staff at my daughter’s elementary school. As her fifth-grade year was coming to an end, faculty rallied around offering tons is advice before middle school. One of the things that were said that stuck with me the most was, “Although this is a time where independence is encouraged, it is also a time where your child will need guidance and support the most.”
Middle school can be tough. The mixture of newly developed hormones, new challenges, and a little immaturity can make for some tough and confusing times. Not only is independence encouraged, but they crave it themselves at this age. Yes, independence is a valuable life lesson, but too much of anything can be bad.
That is why it is so important to be a supportive parent during this time. By being a supportive parent, not only will you continue to bond with your child in a real and healthy way, but you will also be helping them to succeed in school. Now that we’ve talked about why it’s important to be a supportive parent, here is the how.
Participate in your child’s school events. Attend the back-to-school nights and show up to the parent-teacher conferences. Also, don’t be afraid to join in on the fun things. Go to football games and watch the school plays. When you get involved, everyone notices. Your child sees that you are there for them and that their education matters. This will encourage them to work harder and more consistently. Their teachers and the school faculty will also notice. They will recognize that they have a go-to whom they can call if they have any concerns. This helps you and your student stay in the know. If a grade is slipping or behavior is off, that teacher will reach out to you because they know you would want to know. By participating, it shows that you as a parent are taking your child’s education seriously, and in return, everyone else will as well.
Volunteer when you can.
There are many ways to volunteer at your child’s middle school. Chaperoning is a great one. Don’t limit your chaperon skills to field trips. There are plenty of school events that need chaperones as well, like school dances for example. I know it seems as if having Mom at the school dance may be embarrassing for some tweens, but you’d be surprised at how excited your child still gets when you show up. Now, we all know middle schoolers are walking talking hormones, so if the thought of you being there is just too much to bear, help out with PTA. They can always use volunteers.
Teach time management skills at home.
Middle school is completely different from elementary school. Going from one maybe even two teachers in elementary school to eight different classes and teachers is a big jump. You as the parent should lay the foundation for time management skills by setting expectations at home. Create a homework and study routine at home, and stay consistent with it. Having a set time for homework and studying helps them to properly schedule their days. Having a schedule and knowing what’s next helps your child to understand how to manage their time wisely. This will help your child not become overwhelmed with the day’s tasks and can help to create happier healthier days. Being able to properly manage their time is also a valuable skill that they will carry into high school and beyond.
Help them get organized.
Parents, we’ve all been there. We brought the supplies, all the proper folders, and binders for each class, and that backpack is still a mess. The inside is overflowing with papers and crushed-up assignments at the bottom of the bag. This is where we step in to help with teaching them how to organize all that paperwork. Set aside one day out of the week to go through it all. Have your student create a “keep” pile and a “toss” pile. Of course, you can do this process however you see fit, but for us, the simpler the better.
The “keep” pile is for all the papers you want to keep. Assignments that still need to be done or turned in, notes, or even graded work that you and or your child are proud of and want to hold on to. The “toss” pile will consist of anything you want to throw away. Graded papers you don’t want or need, wrappers, and anything else that needs to be tossed out.
Not only will this process help them keep their paperwork organized, but it’s a great way to keep up with things yourself. You can see what’s being completed and how your child is doing on their assignments. This is a great way to stay engaged and even gives you an opportunity to praise your child and celebrate their hard work.
Provide positive reinforcements.
Celebrate their successes. Let them hear you celebrate them. Tell them how proud you are of them. Let them know you see them and all the hard work they are putting in at middle school.
Get to know their friends.
Social interactions at school are just as important as academics and can be equally as challenging to navigate. When your children are younger, their friendships and interactions with those friends are in your hands. You set up the playdates, and their friendships are with children you are familiar with. As they enter this new phase of life, they are independently creating their own social lives and social circles. I believe this gives them more opportunities to be influenced negatively if you are not involved. While some of the scarier and harsher worries may not be of concern quite yet, there are still negative behaviors that can occur. At this age, they are learning to lie, bully, and cheat, which are all behaviors you don’t want your child to carry into high school and beyond.
It’s important that we remind ourselves that middle schoolers are still children at the end of the day. As parents, we can pick up on things they may not be able to just yet. By getting to know their friends, we can pick up on intentions and catch concerning behaviors early. We can also help them navigate these friendships better when we know who their friends are. We have a better understanding of the individual and can speak from a personal point of view instead of a general one. We not only want to make sure their friends are being good friends to them but that they are being good friends as well.
Knowing your child’s friends also helps to open up an honest and open line of communication between the two of you. By asking questions and showing interest in their social lives, you are showing your middle schooler that you are listening to them. You are showing them that they matter and that what they have to say is important. We all know to be heard is a really big deal. Even as adults we want to feel like we are being heard and seen.
Middle school can be a tough time, but it can also be exciting and fun. With a lot of guidance and support, you can help your middle schooler set the tone for a successful school journey.