The transition from elementary to middle school is one of the most challenging shifts for K–12 grade students. As both a Middle School Counselor
and parent of a 5th-grader about to transition from elementary school, I understand the excitement and concerns some parents may have. It’s an exciting new era for your child to experience greater levels of responsibility, participate in a more diverse array of extracurricular activities, and explore their interests. There are also some challenges of which parents should be aware to set their child up for success.
1. Stay Involved In Your Child’s Academic JourneyAllowing your child to become gradually more independent is healthy as they progress through secondary grade levels. Still, some parents have adopted the assumption that now that their child is in middle school, they should be totally hands-off. Children entering middle school are adjusting to a completely new schedule, a greater workload, new social expectations, and greater levels of responsibility. It’s a challenge for 11 and 12 year-olds to manage their time, tasks, and emotions well without the guidance of their parents. One simple thing you can do to help your child stay on top of their studies is to review their agenda daily. It’s true that this is the time for hand-holding to become less and less necessary, but middle school students, especially 6th-graders, still need support from their parents.
Children entering middle school are adjusting to a completely new schedule, a greater workload, new social expectations, and greater levels of responsibility.
2. Give Your Child Space to Navigate Challenges
That said, there is a line between being present and providing support, and being, well, a “lawnmower”— a parent who makes every effort to remove any obstacle before their child. As a parent of two young children myself, I understand the temptation to move heaven and earth for the success of our children. “Making mistakes and experiencing ‘failure,’ disappointment, or discomfort are essential life experiences that provide the opportunity for kids to learn how to do better and to practice new skills,” says an article in Psychology Today
. So how involved should you be? Ultimately, only you can decide what is best for your family, but we encourage you to hold your child accountable, while being patient, giving them grace to grow and find their footing.
3. Help Your Child Build ConfidenceI think most adults looking back on their adolescent experience regard middle school as an awkward phase of life. Students at this age become painfully aware of how they measure up to what’s “cool” and what’s not, and the added messages on social media don’t always help. But it doesn’t have to be like this! Parents can help their child be a positive presence in their school by teaching him or her to be inclusive, kind, and confident in the person God designed them to be.
4. Monitor Your Child’s Social Media Presence
It seems like social media use among tweens and teenagers often leads to the pitfall of comparison. If your child has their own smartphone or frequently has access to a computer, I highly recommend that you monitor their activity. Generally, bullying looks different than it did 20 years ago. Kids in your typical middle school aren’t just getting shoved in lockers, they’re receiving destructive comments on their Instagram posts. While it may seem “harmless,” bullying can have severe psychological effects
, cyberbullying included. There are a few simple things you can do to make technology safer
for your children, like following their social media accounts and using a password-protected filter on your at-home devices.
Encourage your child to be confident in the person God designed them to be.
Your child’s transition from elementary to middle school is a huge milestone — congratulations! Be intentional to observe him or her throughout the process, and make adjustments along the way. Some children may need a little more one-on-one support than others, and that’s okay. If you have concerns, you can always reach out to your school counselor and ask for recommendations — we’re here to help!
Charisma Dougherty has spent over 15 years working with teenagers, and currently serves as the Middle School Counselor
at Calvary Christian Academy. She studied Psychology at Liberty University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. She and her husband, Sean, attend Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, along with their two children Bella and Luke.