When your kid transitions from elementary to middle school, they aren't the only one facing major life changes. Your role as a parent is shifting, too, and figuring out these new responsibilities can be tricky. But you're not alone in this journey. In fact, the things middle school teachers want parents to know about the first day of school can guide you through this change.
Particularly if your own memories about middle school are less than positive, you might be feeling for your kid right now. For so many people, it's just a tough age. But fortunately for everyone — and I mean that with no hyperbole — there are many awesome people who devote their careers to teaching kids at this crucial stage of life. These are the middle school teachers, and they are your teammates for the next few years.
So here's some firsthand advice about the first day back to school from the teachers who have seen it all. To learn more, I also spoke with veteran middle school teacher (and generally awesome person) Mrs. Lancaster, who has helped hundreds of kids transition to a new school year. With this advice in hand, you and your kid can make the move to middle school as simple as possible.
Let your kid walk to class alone. "Despite how much you want to walk your middle schooler to class, don’t. Let them go," said Mrs. Lancaster. "It is a bitter sweet moment, but they are ready to walk through those doors solo." It's totally fine to give them a good-luck hug at the door or the car, but it's time for your kid to experience a little independence.
"This is the point in their lives when they’re trying to sort out who they are,” said Maryam Thomas, a Charles Carroll Middle School teacher, in The Washington Post. “Peer pressure comes in, and their connectedness to school wanes. We tend to lose a lot of children in middle school, when drugs, bullying, peer pressure and skipping become more rampant. . . . It’s not the time to take your hands off of what they’re doing.” Ask about your kid's first day back, and try to continue the conversation throughout the year.
3Trust Yourself (& Your Kid)
Sometimes sending your kid to a new school feels like you're the one being tested on your parenting skills. But it's crucial to have faith in yourself. "Your parenting has prepared them for this moment," said Mrs. Lancaster. Your kid may be more resilient and ready for new challenges than you realize.
To avoid any last-minute panics on that first day back, take plenty of time to prepare. Make sure your kid has all the necessary school supplies, and get everything together the night before, as explained by a former middle school teacher in Playground Parkbench. It may sound like a small thing, but some prep work will help that first morning go more smoothly. At least you won't be tearing the house apart trying to find a 3-ring binder.
5Trust Your Kid's School
The teachers and staff at your child's middle school are there to help your kid learn and grow. "Trust that the teachers and staff are there for you and your child," said Mrs. Lancaster. You're on the same team.
6Validate Their Feelings
The transition to middle school can be scary, and your kid might express some deep fears about getting lost at the new school or making friends. It's important not to discount these fears outright, and instead validate, or affirm and recognize, this reaction, as noted by middle school teacher Jennifer Gonzalez in the Cult of Pedagogy. This doesn't mean feeding into the fears, but simply acknowledging your kid's real (and understandable) feelings about this big life change.
Even if your own middle school experience was the worst, it's a good idea to approach your kid's school year with a sunnier attitude. "Middle School is an exciting adventure," said Mrs. Lancaster, who brings this same buoyant enthusiasm to her classroom and students. Like any adventure, it can be scary and troublesome at times, but your kid has the stuff to succeed. But it's such a wonderful time for your kid to try new activities and discover new talents. With some positive encouragement, your kid can rock that first day back.