One of the biggest transitions in a child’s K-12 educational career is the leap from elementary to middle school (aka junior high or secondary).
When a student leaves elementary school, so much is different in the approaching years: the numbers of students and size of the school, teacher accessibility, and student expectations. Additionally, the neurological, physical, and social development young adolescents are experiencing at this stage are tremendous.

By Wendi Ostroff

Parents and caregivers often worry whether their child is being prepared for the rigors of high school, college, and into the future (and tend to overlook this first step). While students are looking for increased independence, they still need supervision, direction, and boundaries to help steer them in the right direction.

Here are some ways families can support and prepare their students to be ready for their next steps in their school career:

• Help them get acclimated to their new school. Before school starts, take a walk around campus, and find their first period class. Attend an open house if available. Explore on a weekend when it’s quiet.
• Demonstrate how to get organized– if possible, buy materials needed before school starts, and set up a designated area where they can do their homework.
• Discuss writing down all assignments and upcoming tests, buying a planner to keep track of all schoolwork. Look it over together regularly to establish the habit.
• Teach them about time management. When some assignments are not due for a while, help them get started and explain the importance of not waiting until the last minute. Use timers to include breaks between studying.
Stay on top of student’s schedule. Write it on a board or someplace centrally located at home so they can plan out the week with other activities and sports.
Keep lines of communication open. This can be a challenge but try to meet their new friends and be involved. Be aware of bullies, signs of stress, anxiety, or depression, and talk about these topics.
Make yourself available. Don’t assume they learned study skills at school so explain how to be efficient when preparing for a test or studying. Good work habits take time to acquire but will pay off in the long run. Encourage, don’t push, higher expectations.
Acknowledge effort. Teach responsibility. Be consistent. Stay positive. Build resilience.

Remember that the transition to becoming a successful middle school student—intellectually, physically, and socially, does not happen overnight, but is more gradual. This is their chance to get involved in new activities such as clubs, sports, and leadership. The two-three years of middle school goes by quickly, and is the bridge that connects high school, so work on maximizing learning.