Moving Up to Middle School: Do’s and Don’ts for Parents

I was a four-eyed, brace-faced, awkward-haired band nerd, which made middle school pretty rough.

While I had good friends and great experiences, I also experienced my share of heartbreak, disappointment, and social struggles–even flat-out bullying.

I have to be very careful not to let my bad experiences influence the way I talk about middle school to my kids. Society already portrays middle school as a negative, hellish place, so it’s up to us parents to make sure our kids are prepared, but not scared!  Whether you were part of the popular crowd or an outsider like myself, it’s a sure bet your child’s experience will be unique to them.  

Now, I know this year’s going to look a little different. But if you’re doing any in-person learning this year, these things apply!

Moving up to Middle School: Dos and Donts for ParentsHere’s how to prepare your child for middle school:

First, let’s talk about the DON’Ts:

  • DON’T assume their experience will be anything like yours. Whether you were a band nerd or the queen of the halls, it’s a sure bet your child’s experience will be very different, if nothing else because things have changed since your middle school days. 
  • DON’T put off those uncomfortable chats any longer. If you haven’t talked about puberty, sex education, alcohol and drugs, etc. NOW is the time. They’re going to hear it all in middle school, and I would much rather teach my kids correctly than let them try to figure it out from an overheard conversation. It might be a good time to brush up on your teen slang/texting jargon so you can be alerted to some of these issues early.
  • DON’T say no to new things. If your child wants to play tennis for the first time ever or join the Drama club, say yes when you can! Middle school is a great time to try out new hobbies and maybe even discover their “thing”. 
  • This is less important, but DON’T go overboard planning out locker decorations and supplies. That locker chandelier is so cute, girl moms, but especially in the winter, there is very little room for anything but their coat and backpack.  

Now for some important things you should do:

  • DO teach your child about good hygiene, mask-wearing, and any other guidelines they will be expected to follow this year. 
  • DO let them practice being independent. If they can’t already, they need to learn how to ask for help themselves. Have them order their own food at the fast-food counter. Have them return a purchase that didn’t work out. Teach them to send polite emails so they can contact teachers as needed. Help them identify teachers or counselors they can go to if things get rough. But let them know you’re there to advocate for them if they need you.
  • DO help them get acclimated to a new school and new environment. It’s going to look a little different this year, but I’m sure, in the absence of orientation days and parent nights, there will be plenty of teachers and staff members waiting to help new students. You can help them learn to open a combination lock at home. Let them stay after school (if allowed) and practice opening their locker 15 times. Make sure they have the needed supplies for day one.
  • DO talk to your child about your values, your opinions, and especially, your expectations, while also listening to their opinions and feelings. You might be surprised what “adult” issues your child has to deal with during these years, and if we don’t recognize that, we may close off communication with our kids just when they need us most.

With a little preparation and a great attitude, middle school can absolutely be a wonderful experience for your child! 

What tips would you add to make a middle school experience successful? Let us know in the comments!

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