Megan Lown, Middle School Math Teacher/Coach, Seminole Science Charter School
Whether students attended school virtually or in-person this past year, both brought unique challenges to all students, who are now eagerly looking forward to a well-deserved summer break. While the fall may seem like a long way off, parents should use the summer months to begin assisting their children making the transition from elementary to middle school.
Middle school is a time of new friends, new emotions and new responsibilities. It’s a transformative period – and one experts believe has the largest impact on human development (second only to the period from infancy to age three). That’s a lot of growth and change happening at one time. Luckily, you can find a balance between being supportive while also encouraging independence with these tips:
- Use mistakes as teachable moments. Middle school is the time when students begin learning that actions have consequences. If a parent shows up with a child’s forgotten homework, will they ever learn the importance of planning ahead and being responsible? It can be a challenge to watch your child make a mistake, but the lessons they’re learning will carry them into adulthood. Allow some grace for mistakes, as well, as your child is likely feeling a jumble of emotions they’re still sorting through and knowing a mistake isn’t detrimental will make that process easier.
- Promote leaving their comfort zones. Early teen years are meant for trying new things and exploring what activities inspire your child as well as learning what doesn’t interest them. This summer, encourage them to try a new hobby, play a sport, or make a neighborhood friend, and praise their efforts. Once school starts, their middle school likely will have clubs and other organizations that weren’t available in elementary school. Set a goal for your child to join at least one club that interests them. Positive risk taking is an important skill in teen development – and one that will help ensure a happy, well-rounded adult life later.
- Teach teens to be their own advocate. While your parental instinct might be to fight all your child’s battles, middle school is the time to encourage your student to start speaking up for themselves. If they’ve had a disagreement with a friend, forgotten their homework, etc., resist the urge to get in the middle. Instead, brainstorm ways to resolve the issue together and allow them to see it through.
- Maintain your connection. As a child ages, their desire for independence and confusing teenage emotions can make connecting with parents hard. Devote one-on-one time with your middle schooler during the upcoming summer months, playing a board game or watching your favorite show. You could even model positive risk taking and choose an activity that allows you to step outside your comfort zones together. Meet your child where they are, which could be as simple as an hour watching their favorite TikTok or YouTube videos. Set the building blocks for a strong relationship now – so your child knows you can always be relied on.
Middle school can be hard, but thoughtful parenting can make these confusing years easier. Set a positive attitude about the upcoming transition, and your child will absorb that energy. This will be an exciting time for you both. Preparation is key, but don’t forget to stop and soak in the joy of this age this summer.
Megan Lown (Author)