Right about now, the reality is setting in for us parents of fifth graders. We have just a few precious months before we send our kids into that character-building, tumble-dry cycle that is Middle School. It’s time for us to suck up our own feelings about this transition and help our kids be ready.
At least as ready as anyone can be for the unknown.
Find out what your current school offers.
I recently talked to our school counselor about this transition to see what we could be doing to prepare our daughter. I found out that in the spring there will be a small group for fifth graders to build skills for success in middle school. These things might not be advertised, so start a conversation with your child’s teacher or the school counselor to find out your options.
One of the things that her fifth-grade teachers have done is to rotate the kids for a couple of subjects each day. Students get used to being responsible to different teachers who have different expectations and requirements. Therefore, it won’t be a complete shock when they get to sixth grade and move classrooms all day.
Make new friends and keep the old.
As everyone starts to make decisions about where their children will attend next year, I have had my daughter talk to her friends. Her best friend will not be going to our neighborhood school, but a few of her other friends will be joining her there. We are working toward strengthening these friendships. They may not be in every class with her, but hopefully, she will see friendly faces during her school day.
At the same time, we are planning how we can maintain the friendships she will miss. My daughter is a worrier, so this assurance takes away some of her stress. We are looking at ways she can communicate safely and freely with her friends, and we will make time for hanging out when we can.
Talk about your own middle school experience.
I have started to share stories about my time in middle school: the good, the bad, the embarrassing. I want her to get a little sense of what it might be like, what she can expect, and mostly I want her to see that you can walk through hard things and find your way. Most importantly, that an embarrassing moment in seventh grade will not define your whole life.
We attended an information night recently at our neighborhood school. During his talk, the principal mentioned they strive to create a community where kids feel safe to make mistakes. He said middle school should be a place to make mistakes while the consequences are small. This sentiment will stick with me as we navigate this new frontier.
Talk to your child.
This should be a key part of any transition. Find out what they are worried about. Learn what you need to research or seek out. Find out what they are interested in, and help them find ways get involved.
Kids will be more comfortable asking questions if there is a history of listening and talking through concerns. As they start to face tougher social situations, that relationship will serve you well. Make it okay to come to you after a mistake. Be the one they seek out to help find the solution.
One of the best ways to stay informed about what is coming is to find a friend one step ahead in the parenting journey. For example, it can help to hear success stories of kids having a fantastic experience in middle school, but even a story of a struggle can help you in your planning and navigating the next step. Learn from someone else’s luck or mistake. This also gives you a shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough; someone who has lived it and really “gets” you.
Are you getting ready to send your child to middle school? Been there done that? Share your tips on a successful transition!