The transition to middle school is a huge one for kids.  The close, nurturing, elementary school environment they may have known since kindergarten is about to give way to many unknowns.

Parents who understand the significance of this change can be proactive and help their children relieve their fears.

Navigating a New Environment

Though soon your student will know every hallway and room in the school, on Day One it’s much bigger, full of noisy kids and unfamiliar teachers.  Walking through the school ahead of time is a good way to help your child feel comfortable when school starts.  Students left 5th grade at the “top of the heap” so to speak.  Now they will be sharing hallways with older students who may be well into adolescence by 8th grade.  That can be intimidating, but remind your student that everyone was a 6th grader once!

Dealing with lockers and a new cafeteria can also cause worries.  Getting into a routine about going to a locker and who to sit with at lunch can be daunting that first week.  Reassure your child that others feel the same.  Ensure him that each day will get better as he or she sorts out the class schedule and where to go when.   Many schools try to keep 6th grade classes in the same wing or area, which is helpful as students get their footing.

Middle School Brings New Social Challenges

According to Carl E. Pickhardt PhD. in an article from Psychology Today, in middle school, kids want to belong even as they strive to assert their independence.  Socially, middle school can be tough.  Due to large variations in development which often occur, some students are already into puberty while others are not.  Those physical differences can become a source of ridicule toward some students.  According to Dr. Pickhardt, there is more “teasing, exclusion, bullying, rumoring and ganging up.”  All these behaviors can be exacerbated by social media.  Wise parents will prepare their kids for the fact that sometimes other kids can be cruel, and will monitor use of social media.

The Challenge of Academics

The transition to middle school brings many changes to the learning environment.  Elementary students have one main teacher who knows them well.  In middle school, students face multiple teachers every day.  Students are taught how to use assignment notebooks and are expected to take more responsibility for their assignments.  Ironically, as Dr. Pickhardt points out, this change to a more demanding academic environment occurs at a time when children moving into adolescence start to crave more independence.

Tips for Parents

Dr. Pickhardt suggests the following list of tips for parents to smooth the transition to middle school.

1.Understand that middle school is not elementary school.
2.Identify and allay common entry fears of middle school.
3.Expect early adolescent changes in your child.
4.Supervise the completion of all homework.
5.Support learning to function in a large secondary system.
6.Declare your desire to be told about any social cruelty that occurs.
7.Inform your child about the normal changes that come with puberty.
8.Enroll your child in social circles outside of school.
9.Encourage the development of multiple sources of self-esteem.
10.Monitor and moderate the increased need for electronic communication (cell phone texting, computer messaging, and social networking.)

As Dr. Pickhardt notes in his article, social pressures and other distractions may affect your child’s academics.  In addition, by 6th grade, students must read to learn, with more independent reading assignments in many subjects.  Falling behind in school can be another source of anxiety that can often be remedied with help from Knowledge Edge.  If your middle school student is struggling, check out program options at for reading, math and study skills.