It’s less than three months before the end of the school year and your child is about to graduate to middle school. While this should be a happy time, you’re reflecting on your child’s past school year and you’re more concerned than elated. You’re constantly nagging your child to stay on top of her homework, she seems confused about what assignments are due, she’ll often come home in tears because of one peer drama after another, and the teachers send you messages voicing their “concern.”
This may lead you to wonder…. is my child ready for middle school?
That’s a great question. But here’s another one I’d like you to ask yourself: “What can I do to prepare my child for success in middle school?”
Here are the top 4 skills your child should have so she’ll be ready for middle school, and what you can do to develop each one:
1. Frustration tolerance: Middle school is full of high homework expectations. The assignments are more challenging and often require more dedication and time than in elementary school. Your child is going to get frustrated when the learning becomes more complex and it takes her longer to accomplish the homework.
Make sure you are her cheerleader, supporting her the whole way. Let her know you believe in her and you are always there to help. Hone in your listening skills, and allow your child to vent without rushing to advice or judgment.
2. Time Management: Multiple classes means your child will have to juggle multiple workloads. Tests, projects, presentations, and homework are going to be flying at your child and it can get overwhelming fast. Help your child prioritize what’s important. While it seems simple to you, she may be struggling with knowing what to do first, second, third, and so on. If she’s involved with extracurricular activities she’s going to have to learn how to balance academics with the responsibilities of her activities.
Get your child acquainted with an agenda or planner, and teach her how to complete her to-do lists. And if you’ve already given her a phone, be prepared to curb her use to help her focus! If she says she’s overloaded with activities, it’s OK to let go of one or two of them so she can have a life too.
3. Self-control: This is especially essential. Middle schools have a zero tolerance policy for fighting, bullying, and verbal harassment. If your child is quick to fly off the handle, verbally or physically, the time to improve her self-control is now. Teachers will have little patience and won’t hesitate to send her to the office for even the most minor of infractions.
Work with her on increasing her ability to communicate her feelings in assertive, not aggressive, way. Model positive communication of feelings at home, and work on clear guidelines for behavior. Don’t hesitate to follow up with consequences if she pushes boundaries!
4. Confidence and self-esteem: Multiple elementary schools funnel into the middle school your child will be attending, which means new opportunities for friends…and frenemies. Knowing how to be a friend, as well knowing how to be friendly to peers who aren’t friends, will benefit your child immensely.
Focusing on your child’s confidence and self-esteem is one of the most effective ways of safeguarding your child against peer pressure, negative influence, and teasing or bullying. Teach your child positive affirmations, and don’t forget to tell her she’s perfect the way she is.
Bottom line: You’re probably asking yourself right now “So what if my child is lacking some of these skills?” Fear not. Childhood is about the development of skills, not magically getting them overnight (although that would be great, wouldn’t it?). With your encouragement between now and August, your child will have a great start to her first year in middle school.
If you feel like after trying these strategies you’re still concerned that your child just isn’t prepared emotionally or socially for middle school as you’d like her to be, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.