Starting Middle School is a pivotal event in your child’s life. Coming from elementary school where there was still a party forever-frivolous holiday can make Middle School feel like the Ice Age for kids. Most children have to accustom to having a new teacher for every class rather than learning to love (or hate) just one throughout the entire year. This makes it difficult for them and for you as a parent to find your shoe in to the school system so you feel like you know what is going on. Gone are the days with weekly newsletters and calendars that keep parents posted on everything from how much lunch money they have in their account to what your child will be doing every second of every day while they are at school.
Often, the transition is much harder for parents than it is for children. Children in the 6th grade for the most part start developing a taste for parental autonomy. And by all means, they should. However, your child isn’t a teenager yet and you worry about the older kids they will be around, some with boobs, girlfriends and boyfriends, and the painful pressures of growing up teen. In elementary school, every kid was about the same. There weren’t parties and football games and you knew all the parents of the children your child hung out with. Then middle school comes along and your child has a ton more children to befriend and you will notice that pubescent hormones are everywhere. This means that your child is either in the midst of developing, behind everyone else in his or her class, or ahead of the game. In any case, your predicament is frightening. Your child feels awkward and insecure no matter what and completely baffled by the changes taking place. This can be the beginning of trouble at home such as arguments, moodiness, and disrespect.
On top of the emotional situation posed by the drama of starting Middle School, it becomes largely evident that teachers can no longer rely on the boy girl seating arrangement to take care of trouble in the classroom. In fact, it may even cause more of it. Loads of homework comes piling in from numerous different teachers who all expect things to be completed in a different manner confusing you and your child. You may experience the first stint with bad grades caused by your poor kids head reeling with the pace of middle school learning. They can no longer miss a day at school for ‘mental health’ reasons or to trek to Disney, without returning and feeling very behind. The good news -or so your child thinks, is that Middle School teachers don’t immediately call mom and dad if there is a failed test or potential problem. This means that unless you are paying very close attention – you might not know your child is struggling until you get a report card or progress report.
On the other hand, this is part of Middle School. Developing a mind of their own, taking care of their own work, remembering to do homework without getting parents signatures on every paper are precursors for a successful life. And so Middle School teachers are extremely adept at piling it on to see what your child does with both the freedom and expectations. As a parent, you should try to keep your nose out of their business whilst remaining aware of what is going on in their world. Instead of relying on your child for everything, learn how the Middle School likes to handle parent’s inquiry. Many of them have websites set up where you can keep tabs on your child without breathing down their neck or treating them like a baby. Don’t be afraid to communicate by email with your child’s teachers and most importantly, talk to your child! When your child starts middle school, one of the most important things to success is how successful you are at communicating with your child. Up to this point, they followed your lead. Now suddenly, you have to learn how to both give advice and gather information without coming across as a blowhard.
Starting Middle School is also the beginning of YOU being the bad parent. With so many children of different ages piled up in one school, your child will gain exposure to what other parents allow. The peer pressures of being in a click and being popular start becoming exposed in Middle School. Suddenly, your rules of parenting may seem unfair. Why can’t your daughter where a tight shirt and ripped up jeans because EVERYONE else does? Why can’ your son walk home from school with his pals just because you don’t know them? All of the sudden, you are unfair and will at some point be accused of treating your child like a baby. (For good reason of course) Don’t be surprised if your child starts telling a tall tale or two as well. Most middle schoolers assume that their parents have no idea what is going on.
While you may be tended to return to work or start living your own life again – don’t be fooled by how big your child’s shoes are getting. Lives can be made and broken during the starting middle school phase. If your child has too much time alone or is offered too many freedoms, chances are they will swerve miserably of course. Instead, try to remain a presence in their life that is constant, but sometimes invisible. Don’t go and sit down with them in the lunchroom as you used to. Avoid the urge to follow the bus on field trips. Don’t try and hold their hand in the hallways and refrain from feeling hurt when they don’t want to kiss you hello or goodbye in front of their friends. Your child is growing up and away, as they should!
Starting middle school for you and your child is the beginning to a new relationship. In these years, trust between you and your child will be built. You will also have the vantage point of seeing your child succeed (mostly on their own) as they blossom physically and emotionally into a young adult. As a parent, the important time in life has come to learn the ropes of being both a cool mom or dad – as well as one that isn’t worried about being ‘friends’ with your child. Work on communication between you and your child every day, and try not to feel resentful that time has marched on so quickly.