A Parent’s Guide To Surviving Middle School

A Parent’s Guide To Surviving Middle School

Middle School can be one of the most daunting and challenging periods of development children and parents ever experience. What’s a modern parent to do?

Veteran teacher Robert Walrond says parents have a huge impact on how children behave and whether they succeed or fail. “It’s not all about just getting A’s,” he says. “Your child’s future is at stake. Success is really dependent on what you the parent do.”

Middle school is where children begin their transition to adulthood in earnest. Walrond sees a whole range of common problems including disengagement, emotional distress, lack of attention, low achievement, negative peer pressure, risky behavior, distractions caused by mass media and hormonal development, and involvement with cliques, bullies and gangs.

According to Waldron, parents must not assume a child has a learning disability or a mental problem. Some children genuinely do have medical problems that lead to difficulties in learning. But most simply are having difficulty figuring out their ever changing body and the ever increasing complexity of the world around them.

The next biggest mistake is thinking that school is for the child and that the parent is free to stay away. “School is not daycare. You’ve got to commit to learning what’s going on, paying attention to what’s happening, getting involved and jumping on news and events good and bad, and behaving well no matter what happens.”

His new book, Every Parent’s Guide to Middle School Success, offers simple and practical strategies for helping your child succeed in middle school. Here is some of his best advice.

YOU the Parent – Are The Linchpin. Recognize that while success in Middle School is a team effort with the parent, the teacher and the student, YOU the parent are the most important part of the team. YOU influence your child. YOU influence the teacher. So acknowledge your role and take the responsibility for what happens.

Communicate with Your Child – Talk in the morning. Talk in the afternoon. Talk in the evening. Talk by phone. Text your child as frequently as appropriate to coordinate where they are, what they are doing next, and what they and you will be doing together next. Stay in direct contact with your child and do not lose the direct personal attention and connection.

Find out what is really happening at school – What is really going on in school? Find out. Go to the school and get all the information the school has available. Search the Internet. Study the school web page. Learn about the extracurricular programs and opportunities for student and parent involvement. Get the calendar identify the events. Learn what is planned and talk to the teachers, coaches, and other parents and place these events on your calendar. Learn and think about what your child is doing, with whom and when from morning to night.

Get your child involved in school activities. Get them into clubs, sports, music, theatre, and other sponsored and monitored after school activities. Encourage them to develop interests, skills and the desire to perform and develop in all sorts of ways. Support them to the maximum degree in whatever they decide to be interested in even if it is a financial sacrifice that needs to be budgeted and carefully managed.

Attend School Conferences – Make the back to school night and all student parent teacher conferences a mandatory event. Learn what is being taught in each class. Look at the books and materials being used to teach. Look at the rooms and facilities where your child will be spending each day. Put names to faces and learn how to contact teachers by phone and email if you have questions. Contact teachers and ask questions. Be active and follow up if you don’t hear back in a timely fashion.

Be courteous with teachers and administration – Do not drop into class rooms unannounced. Check in with the front office. Schedule visits with the teachers and staff. Enter classrooms as a neutral observer. Behave yourself and do not draw attention or disrupt the teacher or your child. Be positive and make the experience a good one for all involved.

Stay Connected with Your Child – Expect changes to be resolved slowly over time and not overnight. Let your child know you are informed. Understand that students stretch the details and embellish the facts. Realize that their hormones are changing and that the drama and emotion are often times what is governing their reality. Don’t be judgmental or automatically rush to their defense or take sides. Stay in tune. Be there when they need you.