The transition from elementary school to middle school is a big one in a kid's life. There's not only exposure to a lot of new people, there are older, more mature kids in the mix and your kid may feel lost in more than one way. It's not unusual for kids entering middle school to fight feelings of fear or feel like a low man on the totem pole. They may have heard stories from older siblings or other kids that make them worry about how they'll stack up once they get to middle school. It's all normal!
Many questions that run through their head regard their ability to make friends and fit in, find their way around campus, and meet both academic and behavioral expectations. Parents can help ease the transition between elementary school and middle school with some preparation, discussion and a lot of understanding.
Here are some ways you can help:
Do a practice run – Contact the school and request permission to take your child on campus ahead of time for a tour of the building. Most schools will provide you with a student guide who can show you all the important areas, and who can answer questions. Make sure you and your child get all the answers you need before you leave. If one is available, pick up a school map to keep in your child's backpack just in case.
Get friends involved – Before the first day of school, contact the parents of your child's friends. Arrange a mutual drop off point so that your child doesn't have to walk into the school alone. Have the friends show each other where their lockers are so they can spot each other in between classes if they need to see a friendly face.
Paperwork – Get a student handbook and go over it with your child. Talk about the rules and expectations in middle school for behavior, the dress code, what to watch out for, grading requirements and even how to turn in assignments. During the first week of school, your child's teachers will send home papers that discuss the classes. Go over those as well.
Talk about yourself – Your child will probably take a measure of comfort in hearing about your own middle school experiences. Talk about what you felt on your first day and what you went through. Chances are, some of your stories will make him laugh and let him know that you went through the same thing. The middle school experience can be brutal, so if you feel you don't have anything but horror stories to tell, try to keep it positive and avoid negative stories.
Supply with supplies – In middle school, your child will have a locker, and may share one. There are a lot of fun things to decorate a locker with, if your child's school permits. Pick out items together and make school shopping a special day, given that this is a big rite of passage for your child.
Discuss the issues – A lot of things are more complex in middle school, including their exposure to sexual content and bullying. Have frequent discussions with your child about the sort of things he may encounter—and how to handle them. That way, he doesn't feel things are so bad he can't talk to you about them. Keep open lines of communication with your child so you're aware, each day, of what he's going through.