One of our children just started middle school this year. This is our second child to go through what I call “Middle School Madness.” What a different world! We now have six teachers, instead of one, and various projects coming from numerous directions. Thank goodness we are in a charter school. For us, I think the smaller school size and more intimate setting lessens the impact of the change.
As we are getting ourselves organized and into a new rhythm, I thought I would share some insights and helpful hints that might be useful to others:
Tip #1: Get to know each teacher as soon as possible. In middle school, there is more potential for holes in communication. If you have a sixth grader, as we do, they are not used to having to coordinate so many classes, teachers and assignments. Things can fall through the cracks more easily, which can lead to feeling defeated and bring loss of motivation. Not a great way to start this season of their life. The better the communication between the teachers and home, the better you will be able to support your child as they navigate this journey.
Tip #2: Walk through assignments, parent/teacher communication, grades and any other school items together. We have something called Moodle at our school, which is an online communication system where the daily school activities, homework assignments and notes to parents and/or students are posted. It is designed so that students check in every day and make sure they are on track with what needs to be completed for that day and/or week. It also lets parents know what has been done in class and what needs to be done at home. Personally, I check in with my child every day, because I want to model for him: (a) that this needs to be done daily, (b) that he needs to compare what is on Moodle with what is in his notes, and (c) to show him that there is a solid communication system between home and school. As my son becomes more comfortable with the new schedule and the tasks at hand, he will take more of the lead. In the meantime, I feel that modeling and partnership are very important in order to give him a solid and successful start. This is how parents find out where there are discrepancies in understanding, and they can ask questions of the teachers quickly when needed.
Tip #3: Connect with your child and find out about his/her day. It’s important that we keep in touch with our child about what happens in their day, especially as they begin getting into these teen years. A lot is changing for them, some of which has nothing to do with a school schedule (hormones, attitude, etc.). I recommend being a great listener right now. If you keep the lines of communication open at this stage, you will have a much better chance that they will be open in the coming years. This is part of the trust building that I have written about in past articles.
A last note, specifically for moms … I wrote an article in May of this year about mothers and sons. If you have boys, I suggest reading it. It will come in very handy during this time. Our boys are changing and they are needing to separate from us for their own right of passage. It is important that we understand how to support this with sensitivity, understanding and boundaries. We can alienate our sons, or we can feed their masculinity in a healthy and loving way. We want to choose wisely. This tends to be a challenging time for moms. When you read the article, you will know why.
For those parents not yet in the middle school years, continue to build communication and trust with your child. It will become your best friend. For those of you with high schoolers, I recommend continuing to stay in close contact with teachers, keep communication tight, and find out what is happening in your child’s day. We are still their guardians, and we want to support and protect them, and help them succeed in creating a thriving and healthy life.
Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She is known for her practical and intuitive parenting style. Check out The Bridge Parenting Class!