“Oh you got to learn to roll with the changes”
“Roll with the Changes,” REO Speedwagon; lyrics by Kevin Patrick Cronin
By Karyn Brodsky
Elementary to middle school or junior high is “like the biggest rollercoaster ride at the local amusement park – it can look scary and you might hear screams coming from it, but once on the ride, the thrill takes over, adrenaline rushes, and you understand why people get back in line to ride again,” says Betsy Graham, Principal of Prince of Peace Christian School in Carrollton.
According to Graham, the best way to prepare your child is to research ahead of time. Find out about teachers, class schedules and fun things to anticipate. See if the school offers summer school classes or if a summer camp is held on the premises, so your child can acclimate to the building. If your student needs extra help in an academic area, ask about ways to prepare during the summer, so they will enter with confidence when the school year begins.
Dean Beckloff, Ph.D, child, teen and family counselor at Beckloff Pediatric Behavioral Center in Dallas, says things change when students get into junior high or middle school. “There is a lot of pressure on the kids, and they can become worried or anxious about navigating the building,” he says. “This is especially a challenge for those with learning disabilities.” Beckloff recommends reassuring them that hall monitors, teachers, counselors and administrators will be there to guide them. Most middle schools have incoming students come take a tour of the building and some offer parent orientations as well.
Beckloff says the move to middle school seems to empower students with greater independence from their parents. “This is a cognitive/emotional transition and an attitude emerges that ‘I don’t need you,’” he explains. “You want them to be independent but must be sure they’re completing their assignments and staying organized. The school’s website, academic coaches or a tutor can help them manage their load.”
Christina Tipton, Director of Admissions and Outreach, Fusion Academy in Plano says parents should take a step back and remember that transitioning is challenging. “Parents often make the mistake of doing everything for their children,” she says. “Giving students confidence won’t take away the rockiness, but the more they are empowered to make their own choices and decisions, the more they’ll be okay.”
Finally, Graham says parents should remember their middle schoolers are still KIDS. Their bodies are changing, voices are changing, and they are on the verge of adolescence. The reality is while it would embarrass their student to be a “helicopter parent,” their child needs them now more than ever for guidance through challenges and to cheer on the successes. “For each student, the road to and through middle school is a personal adventure,” says Graham.