Making the Leap from Elementary to Middle School

A guide to transitioning to a new school environment

Every age brings new milestones and challenges for your child. One of the biggest leaps he or she will experience is the transition from elementary to middle school. It is a time of incredible growth and change in their educational journey.

Students go from one primary teacher to changing teachers and classrooms for every class. They must navigate lockers, change for gym class, and handle a more challenging curriculum.

How can you prepare your child for this leap? This guide offers tips to make the transition more successful.

Teach your middle schooler to speak up

Up to this point, you have probably been your children’s advocate whenever he or she has had a problem. Middle school is a good time to let your child handle problems on his or her own.

You will still play a role in solving issues, of course, but self-advocacy is a life skill that all young adults must acquire. The ability to speak up, ask questions, and stand up for themselves is an essential quality needed in the workplace and life in general. You may also want to step back and let your child handle potential social issues with classmates and friends.

You can still follow up with teachers, especially if there is an issue with schoolwork, bullying, or even emotional problems.

Struggle is good

Parents want to protect their children. Still, there is a point where letting your children struggle can be a good thing. The ability to overcome challenges is an important skill that adolescents must master if they are to become successful adults.

Consider letting your child fix his/her own mistakes, as well. If your child fails to finish an assignment, brushes off studying to hang out with friends, or even gets detention, he or she needs to know you will not always make the problem go away.

Focus on grade improvement, not perfect grades

Getting good grades is important. However, the pressure to get straight A’s can lead to real emotional problems. Many adolescents and teens experience debilitating anxiety to be “perfect” in school.

Rather than focusing solely on the GPA, encourage your child to be prepared and always try his or her best, whether it is on a test, an audition, a big game, or a competition. You can also focus on and applaud your child’s progress and improvements.

If your child needs extra help or requires tutoring, that is the time to speak to teachers or academic counselors for advice.

Encourage middle schoolers to take positive risks

Risk is part of life. If everything is easy to accomplish, children cannot grow. It is important that your children become comfortable with taking on challenges and risks. Knowing they can overcome challenges is essential to their growth.

Ideas for positive risk-taking include:

  • Trying out for the soccer team

  • Joining or starting a club at school

  • Volunteering for the charity drive

  • Making new friends

  • Taking a music class

  • Trying out for the solo or play

  • Running for class office

  • Taking the lead in presenting the group science project

All these activities are ways your child can gain self-confidence, leadership skills, communication skills, and become a stronger person overall.

Never stop communicating

Communication is more important than ever at this stage of your child’s life. Even though middle schoolers are becoming more independent, they still need you. You play a vital role in molding your child into the kind of adult you want him or her to be. You can help guide his or her choices and ensure he or she avoids situations that could be dangerous or have lasting negative consequences.

It is also important to monitor your child’s online engagement, including social media channels, chat groups, and even text messages. Online bullying and cyberstalking are potentially dangerous issues for today’s adolescents. Be sure to talk to your children and teens about potential online hazards and encourage them to come to you with any problems. 

A time of transition for everyone

The jump from elementary to middle school is a challenging one for your child and you. Both of you are navigating new waters while trying to figure out how to tackle new challenges. These tips can help keep your heads above water, so you both survive. 

American Heritage School is here to help families negotiate the new normal of middle school. We offer rigorous academics and opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities, academic clubs, sports, and fine arts. Our administration, teachers, staff, and counselors are here to encourage and support you and our students.