Middle School, Here We Come: Getting Ready for the Big Leap!

Is there anything more terrifying than putting your precious little kindergartner on a school bus for the first time?

Why, yes there is. There’s a place called middle school.

The proverbially awkward start to the teen years where kids torment each other, hormones run amok, and opportunities for poor choices lurk around every corner? Yes, that.

As the mother of a thirteen-year-old, I can say that sending my daughter to middle school tugged at my heartstrings harder than any parenting transition yet. It didn’t matter that I’d heard wonderful things about her new school and had wise friends giving me solid advice. This step just felt so big. She’d have so many classes, so many teachers… a locker. Her little body and heart would be changing like crazy. And, she would be navigating all of the above while spreading her wings more than ever before.

What mama’s heart doesn’t skip a beat at the thought of all of that?

The good news? Both my daughter and I have survived this milestone, and I’m grateful to have learned a thing or two along the way. Now, as I look at my three little boys who will be following in her footsteps, I am grateful for the power of hindsight. Whether 5th-grade graduation is just around the corner, or you have a few years to go, here’s what you can do now to get your kid ready for this big leap.

Introduce the power of a {paper} calendar.

As a forty-something adult with a less than reliable memory, I can attest to the fact that there is power in physically writing things down. And, when it comes to a kid getting used to juggling seven different classes, this habit can be a lifesaver. If your child doesn’t have a calendar, grab a pocket one for him or her to use at school. I started this with my fourth grader this year, and I’ve loved the opportunity it has given us to sit down together and prioritize his studying and homework. I promise this type of organizational “practice” will pay off in middle school.

Encourage your kids to reach out to their teachers and coaches when they need help.

This is a challenge, even for outgoing kids. Mamas listen: If your older kiddo is having trouble understanding something new in class, for example, resist the urge to swoop in right away and contact the teacher. Instead, encourage your child to reach out on his or her own first! Of course, you can circle back around with the teacher or coach after your child makes the initial contact. But, never underestimate the power of a child learning to advocate for himself. {Spoiler alert: this is the expectation in middle school!}

Give your child the opportunity to grow in responsibility at home.

It took me way too long to jump on this bandwagon, but giving my kids consistent chores to do around our house is the best thing we ever started doing. Of course, no child enjoys unloading the dishwasher, but there is something magic that happens when little people take ownership of tasks and accomplish them successfully. Who doesn’t feel more confident when they achieve a goal, especially one that wasn’t “fun” or easy? When we hand our children responsibility, hold them accountable, and walk them through the process, we are setting them up for success in middle school.  

Plug your kids into activities that connect them with trusted adults {other than you}.

Whether it’s in sports, clubs, or religious environments, there is power in surrounding our kids with positive adult influences. If you’re like me, your worst fear about the teenage years is that when your kids naturally pull away, they’ll start moving in the wrong direction. That is why I am so grateful for the adults within our church and sports communities who are pouring into our daughter’s life. It’s not only comforting to know that people we trust are looking out for her, but also that she knows other adults believe in her. If you start creating safe coalitions of support like this now, your kids will thrive during these pivotal years.

Take care of YOU.

The truth is that this transition is scarier for us moms than anyone else. So, while you encourage your children through this process, don’t be afraid to take care of yourself at the same time. Reach out to other moms who have walked this path ahead of you. Ask for advice and guidance. Look into the resources your middle school offers to help its parents. You may even find that jumping in and volunteering at your new school helps ease your anxiousness about this transition. Whatever you do, just don’t neglect the things that will help you in the midst of this big change for your baby. 

Do you have a middle school-aged son or daughter? Are you a mama who is almost there? We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to thrive during this transition.  

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Tracie is a Florida girl who fell in love with Atlanta’s southern charm after graduating from college. She currently lives in the John’s Creek area with her husband and four children. If you don't see her in a carpool line or at a kid's sports field, she's most likely at home writing or in her virtual classroom where she teaches middle school students in language arts. Tracie writes about food, family, and faith on her personal blog, and you can read more at www.tracieandrewswriter.com. 


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