It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We aren’t talking about France during the revolution. We’re talking about middle schools.
The environment that children grow accustomed to in their cozy elementary schools is suddenly flipped upside-down when they hit sixth grade. Now the kids can be mean to each other, in a brutal attempt to feel adequate themselves. The education is more important; now the grades count. Most importantly, the kids are going through the formative years that determine the kind of adults they will be.
In ideal circumstances, middle schools provide an environment where a kid transitions into a young adult, and establishes the foundation of a successful education. Unfortunately, the experiences that many kids have in their middle schools is anything but healthy. Instead, they develop poor self-images, insecurities, and ineffective studying habits. This follows them through high school and college, and into throughout life.
Whether you’re considering private middle schools or public for your child’s education, here are a few tips to help them succeed.
Three Tips for Succeeding in Middle School
- Get hands-on.
Some parents turn to private school to get their kids through middles school successfully. Private schools offer a smaller setting that provides a child with one-on-one attention to ensure success, but the most important ingredient in your middle school child’s success is your participation. When you put yourself in the mix and know what’s going on in your child’s school, you’re able to reinforce it at home. You know if their is a hangup they just aren’t getting, before it turns into a bad grade, or a stigma that makes them think they can’t succeed in that subject.
When your child gets home from school, ask open-ended questions about their day. Ask them what they learned. Ask them about projects they’re working on. Ask them about the assignments they need to do at home. Help them prioritize their homework, to ensure they get it all done, and that they understand the content. The more involvement you have in their education, the better their chances are of succeeding.
- Teach them good organization.
When a student is struggling in school, many times the problem is just that they are not organized and it makes them feel overwhelmed. To avoid this problem altogether, guide your child in developing good organizational skills. Middle school is a very valuable time for this, as the organizational skills a child has during the formative years of middle school will follow them throughout their education.
You can help a child develop good organizational skills by creating a system to keep track of assignments. Get them a planner where they can jot down their assignments, the approximate amount of time that will be required to complete it, and their due dates. Assignments that are particularly large should be broken into smaller “chew-able” pieces, and suddenly the project won’t feel as overwhelming.
As the system that you and your child set up to manage their studying is used by them, it will become second-nature, and their brains will automatically approach their work with an organized manner that will ensure their success.
- Communication is key.
You cannot support your child’s development in middle school if you don’t know what they’re struggling with. The only way to stay on top of this is to have an easy and open channel of communication with them. Often, the biggest hurdles in middle school are interpersonal issues with other students. It can be painful for your child to talk about, and they might hesitate to be open with you in fear that you will judge them or be angry with them.
Overcome this by making it a priority to listen more than you speak, and to be slow to insert your opinion. Sometimes, your child might need you to vocalize their feeling for them, to help them sort out how they’re feeling and to validate it, while also avoiding saying anything judgmental that will shut them down. Consider using empathy and putting yourself in their shoes: “I think I would feel frustrated if my friend said something mean about me to someone else…”
It is so important for a child to maintain a good sense of self-confidence at this age, and your participation is an important part of that.
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