Starting middle school is an exciting time in a child’s life. It is a big transition into starting to learn what it is like to have some independence and more responsibilities. Your child may be excited about having different teachers throughout the day, choosing their own “extracurricular classes,” (like computer science, dance, orchestra, project lead the way), seeing their friends, and having a locker!
As a teacher, I see the many physical, emotional, social, and mental changes a child goes through from 6th to 8th grade. I am not exaggerating when I say your child will change and mature A LOT in these few short years. I think it’s important for a parent to help prepare their child for what to expect, so I created a list of 6 conversations you should have with your child before they start middle school.
- It’s okay for middle school to be hard. For some students, middle school may be the first time where they are truly challenged academically. Students often become quickly frustrated and say that what they are being asked to do is impossible. As parents and teachers, we need to explain to our students that it’s OK if they do not understand something the first time they see a math problem, passage, etc. That’s what learning is! They shouldn’t fear the challenge. They should say to themselves, “I don’t understand this, yet.” With a little time, effort, and practice, they will grow, succeed, and feel more confident when they come across the next academic challenge.
- Your friendships may change in middle school. There can be a lot of drama going on in the hallways of a middle school. Your child may lose friends. Your child may get new friends. Talk to your child about the importance of choosing the right friends for them. Friends should make you feel good about yourself. Friends should accept you for who you are. Friends should support your goals. Talk to your child about what they should do if they feel a friend is no longer right for them.
- It’s important to be kind to all students. You guys, middle schoolers are mean. Talk to your child about the importance of being inclusive of all people. Period. Students often say, “I’m just kidding” whenever they are joking with a friend. However, sometimes “just kidding” actually hurts someone’s feelings. Plus, you could be hurting another child’s feelings who happens to be listening, but not directly involved. It’s important for your child to learn that they need to become more aware of things they are saying to and around others. And when you witness your child being unkind, please address it with them right away.
- What to do when you feel uncomfortable or know someone is not doing the right thing – Middle school, especially in 7th and 8th grade, is when some students try to push boundaries of right and wrong (and legal). It’s important that you set up a plan with your child for times at school or at a friend’s house when they feel uncomfortable by what a peer is doing or saying. Make sure your child has memorized your telephone number (especially important in emergencies), and maybe come up with a codeword or phrase that means they need your help to get out of a situation.
- Boyfriends and Girlfriends – Love is in the air in the hallways of a middle school. Be sure to talk to your child about your expectations if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. And that’s all I am going to say about that. 😉
- Cell phone/Cybersafety – If you allow your child to have a cell phone, I highly recommend buying a program that blocks inappropriate and unsafe websites and apps. I would recommend even more a phone that only allows them to make phone calls and texts. As a teacher, I have seen a lot of sadness, drama, and misconduct from cell phones in middle school. Don’t forget to talk to your child about cyberbullying and how painful words can really harm someone, even when you are not face-to-face.