Transition to middle school: Tips for parent-student survival

While it may be summer now, school will begin soon enough.

For Federal Way area students who said goodbye to elementary school earlier this year, this fall represents the start of a critical transition to middle school.

Middle school means new beginnings, experiences and challenges. And while these changes — new friends, new teachers and new school environment — can be exciting, they also can be a bit unnerving for new middle-schoolers.

Here are some of the most daunting changes local students will encounter during this year of transition — and some tips on how to work through them.

• New campus: If your student has to go to an entirely new school, it may seem overwhelming at first. Explore the school’s website with your child and better yet, explore the new campus. The better your child understands the school layout and rules, the more at ease she’ll feel on the first day. Ask the school if there are any campus tours or orientations available to parents and incoming students. Get a map of the campus and take your child to explore.

• New schedule: With different classes in different rooms on different days, middle school schedules can seem confusing and scary at first. If your student needs help finding something or keeping track of where he has to be, encourage him to ask a teacher or other school staff for help.

• Time management: Work together on a schedule and develop an organizational system with your student. Acknowledge and make allowances for anxiety.

• General skills preparation: Summarizing, paraphrasing, and identifying main or important ideas and details are three skills that are essential in all content areas. After reading a book or watching a show/movie, have kids summarize what happened orally. Or have them recount the most important events.

• Taking notes: The workload and pace really pick up in middle school, so note-taking is going to be critical for them to keep up. Start encouraging your child to develop a method of shorthand to prepare for note-taking.  Writing grocery lists and directions are simple ways for kids to practice. Show them your own writing shortcuts. Note-taking is not automatic. The more examples kids see, the quicker they’ll acquire the skill.

• Build their problem solving skills: Common Core State Standards outline the knowledge and skills K-12 students need to acquire for post-high school success. Included in the CCSS are Standards for Mathematical Practice, many of which focus on academic behaviors and attitudes such as perseverance, constructing viable arguments, critiquing others’ arguments, and paying attention to precision. As a parent, you can do your part to help a student acquire these key behaviors and attitudes. Encourage perseverance by having your child work through problems — rather than you stepping in to fix them. Encourage your child to formulate opinions and back them up with sound reasoning. Encourage your child to do things correctly rather than just finish them.

• New friends: One crucial area of worry for middle-schoolers is the social scene. You can help ease their trepidation by opening lines of communication and providing a sympathetic ear. Kids’ worries and concerns about fitting in and making friends may seem trivial to adults, but for kids, these worries often trump worries about academics. Listen to their concerns and advise them on basic social skills. Encourage your child to join group conversations. Discuss how to join in without interrupting, to add something relevant to conversation in progress, etc.

• Socializing online: Online use of social media will ramp up during middle school. In fact, the average teenager sends more than 3,000 text messages a month. Make sure your kids understand that what they say and do online may come back to hurt them — or hurt others. Set guidelines for use of social media on both computers and handheld devices. Make sure you are able to regularly monitor your child’s access to text messaging and social media sites like Facebook. Increased awareness allows parents to talk to their children before issues spiral out of control.


For additional resources, contact Darcy Webb of Sylvan Learning at (253) 838-0507, or


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