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Middle School Transition

Have you noticed that your tween is acting a bit oddly? Is it the dreaded physical or hormonal changes of adolescence, or is it anxiety about an upcoming change in his/her life—the big leap from elementary to middle school? Chances are it’s a combination of both, resulting in your child acting out in ways that aren’t so thrilling to you. It’s not easy to make the transition from being the “oldest” at an elementary campus to being the “youngest” at a new, unfamiliar middle school.

Here are a few tips compiled from the Association for Middle Education:

  • Association for Middle Education (AMLE) gives a scientific explanation of this particular stage of childhood development that describes both physical and cognitive characteristics.
  • Great Schools describes the logistical, social, and academic concerns of the pre-teen in an easy-to-understand way. 

Logistical Fears:Will I be able to find my classes? Can I get across campus without being tardy? What if I can’t get into my locker?

  • Be sure your child attends orientation, or take her and a few friends to explore the school. Find the restrooms, cafeteria, and her locker. Make the trek in scheduled order from classroom to classroom. Time the route so she can be confident that getting there on time is feasible.
  • Buy a lock for your child’s locker in advance, and practice opening and closing it. Make sure your he has the combination memorized or written in a binder. If remembering a combination is too overwhelming, consider a keyed lock, but keep in mind that those keys are easy to lose.

Social Fears: Will I be able to make new friends? Will the big kids bully me?

  • Encourage your child to participate in sports or clubs. Doing so will enable her to meet others with similar interests, and the interaction immediately creates a sense of belonging and security.
  • Help your tween learn basic social skills at home such as joining a conversation without interrupting, adding something relevant to a conversation in progress, and making eye contact. Remind him that his actions directly affect others. Acting in a positive manner yields positive benefits and vice-versa.
  • Be sure your child knows that if she ever feels threatened or bullied, she can talk to you or a school counselor without shame or fear of retribution.

Academic Fears: Am I as smart as the other kids? Can I handle an increased load of homework and higher teacher expectations?

  • In elementary school, grades may have been based on a number scale or with marks like a check-plus, but in middle school, letter grades are more likely. The new grading system brings out the competitive nature of students. Be sure your child understands that grades are not a contest, and that marks are his personal business. As a parent, do not over react to grades. Changes in grades are normal during the adjustment period. See PBS Kids for more helpful information.
  • Middle school teachers have many more students to manage, and they expect students to take on more personal responsibility. You can teach time management skills by creating a schedule together and prioritizing school, home, and extracurricular activities.

While most of us consider children to be quite adaptable, change can still be intimidating. By taking an active role in helping your child be prepared for a new experience, you are helping to ensure that he/she will make the transition as smoothly as possible. All of life is filled with making changes, and teaching your child healthy coping skills at this stage can help set a positive pattern for the future.

Anger: A Secondary Emotion

When was the last time your child or teen (or you) got angry? Maybe it was a blowup about getting off the X Box last night or an incident over chores last weekend. How did the situation resolve? Behaviors stemming from anger can create genuine issues at home and a further problem at school. In a school setting, negative behaviors can greatly impact learning and social development. So how can we help our children learn to be more patient when they feel angry?

In helping your child or teen deal with his or her anger, one concept to understand is that anger is always a secondary emotion. When we feel vulnerable or defensive, our instinct is to adopt an emotion that makes us feel strong, intimidating, and powerful; it becomes a defense mechanism. Anger is a secondary emotion stemming from sadness, embarrassment, jealousy, hurt, fear, or worry. You can help your teen or child deal with his or her anger by targeting the primary emotion in a situation and confronting the root issue. 

More importantly, teach your children to do it on their own. When they get angry over a difficult homework assignment, help them recognize that they are really feeling confused, frustrated, disappointed, and anxious. Trouble with anger at bedtime? Look for emotions such as jealousy, frustration, unhappiness; all are emotions that leave them feeling vulnerable and lead to anger. But they aren’t powerless to confront those primary emotions. With help, they can learn to creatively zero in on a solution to the situation. An added benefit to recognizing source emotions is being able to communicate them to other people. In effectively communicating what they are feeling, children and teens can have their needs met. At other times, a discussion of why certain rules are necessary may result. A conversation about curfew won’t happen if they’ve already stormed away.  

Sounds simple, right? But emotions are complicated, and recognizing what you’re feeling under your anger can be challenging. Even more difficult can be learning to control that anger. Parents can be a great example of dealing with emotions in a safe and appropriate way. Practicing and changing your response to stressful situations will show your kids that it’s an important technique to learn and a valuable life skill.

For additional information, please view the articles below:

Summer Safety

Everyone looks forward to summer: the vacations, swimming, and longer days to play. When your children are so busy, it can be easy to forget basic summer safety. Here are some things to remember, to ensure you and your family have the best—and safest—school break yet.

Stay hydrated
Spending a lot of time outdoors in summer is a good way to become dehydrated. While sweating keeps you cool, it also zaps your body’s water supply. When you or your children are thirsty, instead of reaching for a soda or juice box, grab a water bottle. Water will rehydrate your body faster than sugary drinks, leaving you with renewed energy to go and play. Drinking plenty of water each day—especially when spending time outside—will ensure that you and your family stay safe in the summer heat.

Apply (and reapply!) that sunscreen
Make sure to lather up your family with sunscreen at least 30 minutes before heading outside to enjoy the summer days. This gives the lotion time to soak into your skin and start working its protective magic. Make sure that you also reapply the sunscreen after being in the water or exercising. Don’t forget easy to miss areas, such as the back of your neck, ears, and the tops of your feet.

Wear protective clothing
The summer sun can be brutal, especially when you are at the pool or beach. Make sure you wear protective clothing when outdoors. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt made with lightweight fabric can help ensure the sun doesn’t burn sensitive skin. Also wearing a hat with a rim large enough to shade your face, not only prevents sunburn, but also helps to keep you cool.

Take a break from the heat
Summer sun is at its peak between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Unfortunately, this is also the time most people spend by the water or in summer camp. Teach your family to stay safe in the heat by seeking out shady places to sit and rest, or take a break from the heat altogether and go indoors for a few hours. This will help avoid heat exhaustion, and ensure an enjoyable summer for all.