Wow does middle school suck. I can't remember a more awkward, uncomfortable, frustrating time of my youth than that in-betweener stage.
Pimples, boobs, hair in strange places -- and remember how the boys smelled after gym? Yikes.
Of course the physical manifestations of such a strife-filled time aren't the only thing that cause long-term issues. Middle school is a crucial time in a child's development where learning disorders become more visible, social challenges are heightened, and burgeoning independence is incredibly confusing.
Robert N. Walrond, veteran middle school teacher and author of Every Parent's Guide to Middle School Success, has solutions to these challenges, but it starts with mom and dad.
1. YOU the Parent are the linchpin. Recognize that while success in middle school is a team effort with the parent, the teacher, and the student, YOU the parent are the most important part of the team. YOU influence your child. YOU influence the teacher. So acknowledge your role and take the responsibility for what happens.
2. Communicate with your child: Talk in the morning. Talk in the afternoon. Talk in the evening. Talk by phone. Text your child as frequently as appropriate to coordinate where they are, what they're doing next, and what they and you will be doing together next. Stay in direct contact with your child and do not lose the direct personal attention and connection.
3. Find out what's really happening at school. Go to the school and get all the information the school has available. Search the Internet. Study the school web page. Learn about the extracurricular programs and opportunities for student and parent involvement. Get the calendar identify the events. Learn what's planned and talk to the teachers, coaches, and other parents and place these events on your calendar. Learn and think about what your child is doing, with whom and when from morning to night.
4. Get your child involved in school activities. Get them into clubs, sports, music, theatre, and other sponsored and monitored after school activities. Encourage them to develop interests, skills, and the desire to perform and develop in all sorts of ways. Support them to the maximum degree in whatever they decide to be interested in, even if it's a financial sacrifice that needs to be budgeted and carefully managed.
5. Go to the school often; get involved yourself. Go to events with your child. Be an avid fan and cheerleader. Be a coach, be a helper, be a fundraiser, offer to chaperon, offer to cook, offer to help clean up. Volunteer to be a teacher's aide. Even just sit in class and watch the teacher some time if it's allowed.
6. Listen to what is happening carefully. Read the school newspaper regularly. Read the principal or school teacher newsletter. Jump on the news of opportunities for new activities and involvement. Pay attention to what's new. Read progress reports carefully.
7. Attend school conferences: Make the back to school night and all student/parent/teacher conferences a mandatory event. Learn what is being taught in each class. Look at the books and materials being used to teach. Look at the rooms and facilities where your child will be spending each day. Put names to faces and learn how to contact teachers by phone and email if you have questions. Contact teachers and ask questions. Be active and follow up if you don't hear back in a timely fashion.
8. Be courteous with teachers and administration. Do not drop into class rooms unannounced. Check in with the front office. Schedule visits with the teachers and staff. Enter classrooms as a neutral observer. Behave yourself and do not draw attention or disrupt the teacher or your child. Be positive and make the experience a good one for all involved.
9. Pay close attention to how your child is doing; grades are important but they aren't everything. Is your child happy? Does he or she do what's necessary with a good attitude and an open mind? Is the child suddenly withdrawn, frustrated, or angry? Pay attention to the clues. Listen and think about what's going on. Ask questions gently and learn what you can. Don't take rash actions.
10. Meet with teachers one on one. Problems may arise in middle school: assignments late or not turned in, low grades on quizzes, projects not done, unexcused absences, problems with other students. You must go to a teacher conference with an attitude of helpfulness. You and the teacher are there to help your child help themselves to be more successful. Make it easy on the teacher.
11. Stay connected with your child. Expect changes to be resolved slowly over time and not overnight. Let your child know you're informed. Understand that students stretch the details and embellish the facts. Realize that their hormones are changing and that the drama and emotion are oftentimes what's governing their reality. Don't be judgmental or automatically rush to their defense or take sides. Stay in tune. Be there when they need you.
Are you having a challenging time with your middle schooler?