Tips for Parents of Students Starting Middle School
I can hardly believe that in two weeks I will be the parent of two middle schoolers! The quote “the days are long, but the years are short” has really hit home with me this summer. For the past couple of years I have visited several local elementary schools in the spring to share my tips for parents of students starting middle school. With the start of school right around the corner and my youngest about to enter middle school, I thought I would share the tips with you today. Some of these tips may not apply to your particular middle school, but I hope you will find something useful for your family as your student embarks on his/her middle school journey.
- Attend your middle school’s Parent Information Night. This is an opportunity to meet the principal, counselors, and teachers, hear the important information regarding the upcoming year and ask questions.
- Encourage your child to attend middle school orientation. Oftentimes schedules are handed out at orientation, students are given a tour of the campus, and there are fun activities that give students an opportunity to make new friends.
- Join together with a couple parents from neighboring elementary schools that feed into your middle school and plan a time to get your child and their friends together over the summer. The week before my daughter started middle school, three families from neighboring elementary schools hosted a pool party for their daughters and 10 of each of their friends. The girls played icebreaker games, swam and enjoyed snacks that the guests contributed. On the first day of school my daughter found that although she did not have any close friends in the majority of her classes, she did recognize several of the girls that she had met at the pool party. She was relieved to be able to sit with the girls she had met and ended up forming close friendships with several of them.
- Ask a current middle school student (a neighbor, family friend or older sibling) to take your incoming student on a tour of the campus before school starts to find where their classes are located. The older student can also be a resource for your child after the school year has started and questions come up.
- Find a returning middle school parent that can answer YOUR questions as well.
- Purchase a combination lock and have your child practice opening it before school starts. If a student waits until the first day, trying to open their lock for the first time may cause undue stress.
- Have your child take an extra pair of tennis shoes to keep in their PE locker. Chances are your student won’t wear tennis shoes to school everyday, so it is a good idea to have a pair in their locker so that they are always prepared for PE.
- Send a package of socks to school for your student to keep in their PE locker. In my experience students forget to bring clean/dirty socks back and forth between school and home. Having several pairs in their locker will enable their socks to be a little fresher and they can bring a bunch of them home to be washed every week or two rather than remembering them on a day to day basis.
- Purchase deodorant wipes, bandaids, a brush and feminine products for your student to keep in their locker. My daughter went through a ton of bandaids because friends often needed a bandaid and didn’t have their own.
- The school might ask you to label uniforms with the student’s name. If you have more than one child you might consider putting your last name rather than a first name on these items so that they can be handed down to younger siblings.
- On the first day of school bring a notebook, pen & pencil. You will receive supply lists from the teachers once school starts.
- Invite a friend to ride, walk, or meet at the bus stop on the first day of school. In elementary school it is commonplace in our community for parents to walk their children to class on the first day, but in middle school students prefer to walk to school on their own or be dropped off. Walking into the school with a friend by your side can give your student an extra boost of confidence.
- Suggest that your child determine with their friends a spot where they can meet at lunch the first day. It can be awkward on the first day to have to wander around the lunch room looking for a place to eat on your own.
- Encourage your child to e-mail and set-up conferences with their teacher if they have a question or issue that needs to be addressed. Middle school is a great opportunity to teach your child how to be more responsible for their own education. You can support them by helping them compose the email to their teacher on the first couple occasions or by offering to sit in on the conference with them.
- Don’t deliver items your child forgot to the school. In our home we have one “get our of jail free card” per year that our children can use to ask us to bring a forgotten, lunch, PE uniform, school assignment, or instrument. This rule helped our children to be more responsible and resourceful. in sixth grade my daughter forgot to take her newly washed PE uniform to school on Monday. She did not want to use her “get our of jail free card” or be docked points from her teacher, so she borrowed items from friends that either had duplicates in their locker or had PE during a different period. The result was that she was proud that she had figured out a way to get out of a jam completely on her own and she never forgot her uniform again.
- Don’t call or text your child during school hours (and ask them not to call or text you). I hear repeatedly from teachers and administrators that calls and texts from parents are one of the biggest interruptions during the school day. If you need to get ahold of your child, you can call the office and leave a message or get in touch with them as soon as school gets out for the day. My daughter and I had a miscommunication over pick-up one day and I wasn’t where she thought I would be. She used the office phone to get ahold of me. The problem was solved and it provided her with another opportunity to practice resourcefulness.
- Get to know your child’s new friends and their parents. My daughter and I have hosted a mother-daughter Bunco game the past couple years for her friends and their moms during the holidays. Another friend gets a group of moms together once a month for lunch or drinks. It is great to have a support network of parents at your school that you can turn to when you need a hand or have a question. Conversations among the parents in our group often include how families are dealing with tough topics such as social media, conversations about sex, vaping, drugs and alcohol. It takes a village…
Experts share that the #1 trait it takes to be successful is grit. Middle school is a perfect time to encourage your child to learn from their mistakes and become more self reliant. and resilient. A missed assignment or failed test won’t have the same consequences now that it might have in high school or college, but the lessons learned will have a lasting impact on the rest of your child’s academic future.
Do you know someone who would enjoy this post? Please, forward it to your friends. Are there any tips or tricks that I missed? Leave them in the comment section so that readers can learn from your experiences as well. Check back here on Thursday when I will be sharing a back to school project you can do with you preschoolers through middle schoolers to store their school work. I hope you are squeezing all the fun you can out of these last weeks of summer vacation!