Transitions are hard. Making the move to middle school or high school can be particularly daunting for both kids and parents. To help you navigate these brave new worlds, we have some tips to help you prepare your child for the rigors of each transition so they can grow and thrive with your guiding hand.
Before we dive into the tips for each transition, we have some universal tips to help children of all ages soar:
- Set a Sleep Schedule
Sleep is so important to the developing teen brain. Family slumber habits may have become sloppy during the summer. Now it’s time to establish bedtime routines, even for high school students. Children who get at least eight hours of sleep per night feel better mentally and physically–and perform better at school and in their extracurricular activities.
- Listen To Your Child
When kids feel heard, they share more. If you want to know more about your child’s life, you need to listen more and talk less. It can be so hard not to offer advice, but if you truly want to support them, practice your active listening skills.
- Failure is Okay
It’s painful to watch our children suffer or fail. Your child can learn to handle failure without lashing out or giving up. Remind them that everyone fails sometimes. While sympathy is important, resist the temptation to fight your child’s battles or insulate them from consequences. That only teaches them that actions don’t have repercussions and doesn’t prepare them for setbacks later in life. Sometimes our greatest lessons come from our failures.
Tips for Helping Your Child Make a Smooth Transition to Middle School
Transitioning to middle school can fill children–and their parents–with anxiety. How will my child know where to go? What if they can’t get their locker open? Will they still see their old friends if they’re not in the same classes? What if they have no one to sit with at lunch?
The transition can be unsettling, especially if you have painful memories of middle school–”junior high” for many of us, feel unsure of your role in this new endeavor, or worry that your child will struggle to make the developmental leap.
Here are a few strategies for ensuring the transition goes smoothly:
- Create an Action Plan
Figure out your child’s greatest concerns and help them alleviate their anxiety. Help them prepare for different scenarios. If they get lost, let them know they can ask an adult for help. If they’re worried about lunch, have them meet a friend outside the cafeteria. While they–or you–can’t control their schedule, where their classes are, or who their teachers are, you can control being prepared.
- Normalize Feeling Awkward
Feeling out of place is almost a rite of passage in the early adolescent years. Many kids start to think about how everyone else views them. Their friendships can become more unstable and they’re very sensitive to social acceptance and rejection. By sharing times when you had self-doubt in middle school, you can normalize the awkwardness that many tweens feel. A little humor can go a long way too.
- Prepare for Potential Challenges
Talk to your child about behaviors such as bullying, cheating, and peer pressure so they’re less likely to be caught off-guard. Help them prepare a compelling counterargument when their friends try to persuade them to engage in risky, bullying, or unethical/illegal behaviors.
- Talk to Your Child
Find opportunities to have conversations with your child, especially if they express vulnerability. Middle schoolers are often flooded with the highs and lows of their daily experiences and need time to process them. Be there for them by practicing active listening and building trust.
- Get Involved
Though that child who was desperate to have you involved in everything in elementary school now wants you to back off, you can get to know the school staff by joining the parent-teacher association or volunteering when asked by a teacher, administrator, coach, or fellow parent. The most successful parents support their children without fighting their battles. It’s a tightrope walk, but worth finding the proper balance.
Tips for Helping Your Teen Make a Smooth Transition to High School
Just as you helped your child transition to middle school, it’s now time to help them get the most out of their high school experience. There will be more students, older teens, challenging classes and new social pressures. How can you help your child make smart decisions and enjoy new opportunities? Please know that they still need your support to navigate all this change and set them up for success during and after high school.
Here are a few strategies for ensuring this next transition goes smoothly:
- Establish a Homework Routine
High school classes mean more homework and greater expectations from teachers. To help your child build good study habits, create a designated space that’s quiet and calm without TV, games, or phone distractions. Encourage a consistent homework time that allows for some relaxation before bed and a good night’s sleep.
- There’s More To School than Academics
To achieve a healthy balance, it’s important that your child develops passions outside their academics. Encourage your child to try different extracurricular activities so they can explore new pursuits and interests. Athletic teams and student clubs are a great way to build self-esteem, meet new friends, and perhaps hone their skills for a future endeavor.
- Address Health Issues
Often, mental, emotional, and physical challenges surface during the teen years. Addressing them early will help your child avoid being overwhelmed by setbacks that could affect their future goals. Discuss concerns with your family doctor or school counselor. When addressed early, most students gain the health and confidence to be successful in high school and beyond.
- Let Them Know You Care
While teens might roll their eyes at you and grow more distant, they still crave family connection and need you as much as ever. Sometimes we back away to avoid teen drama, but most high school students say they trust their parents more than anyone else and deeply value family relationships. It’s important to give kids a sense of security and unconditional love.
- The Future Is Now
It’s never too early to introduce your child to college or other post-high school opportunities they may have. While you don’t have to have an official tour, visiting a college campus will help them develop a college-bound mindset and get a sense of what their future could look like. Your child might even discover a new direction that they hadn’t considered before.