How to Prepare Your Middle Schooler for High School
Your child’s middle school years are probably already fraught with challenge and tension. There are enormous physical and mental developments happening, sometimes so quickly it feels like they change week by week! If it happens this quickly in your eyes, imagine how it feels to experience this rate of growth and change firsthand. (Squint your eyes and think back 30 years or so, maybe?)
Now add on to all that social and physical change a change not just of school environment but school expectations and… BAM. You’ve got a recipe for anxiety and self-doubt, even in the most confident young teen.
Whether your child is leaving their K-8 school for the first time or trading the insular middle-school world to venture into high school, this is going to be a big year. These tips can help you support their big emotions and prepare your child for the smoothest transition possible.
Begin a nightly homework routine
While some kids receive homework occasionally or consistently throughout the elementary years, many kids manage to skate by with nary a worksheet to finish or test to study for. This may be due to elementary teachers’ opinions of homework’s efficacy, to a child’s ability to finish work in class without bringing it home to complete, or a combination of both.
If your child hasn’t yet become accustomed to evening homework, it may be time to prepare them, and your family schedule, for the inevitable. Creating reliable evening routines can be helpful as the volume of work — and independent work, in particular — increases in high school.
Consider using a family calendar to track homework deadlines and other evening commitments. Choose a fairly regular time, either before or after dinner, when homework can be an expected and calm part of your evening.
Try a family “brainwork” practice
To help establish a homework routine and ensure one child with homework doesn’t feel “punished” when the rest of the family is relaxing and enjoying themselves, consider a family brainwork ritual. The Reading School Founder Diane Duff recommends:
“Especially as students grow, homework obligations will vary from night to night and child by child. Equalize homework and improve kids’ willingness and attention with a family brainwork routine.
Here’s how it works: everyone sits down together at a relatively regular time, either before or after dinner. Children can work on their assigned homework or benefit from reading or from being read to if they don’t have homework. While kids are doing school work, parents can write in their journal, read, or finish a bit of extra work.
If one child is receiving tutoring or structured literacy lessons, that’s a natural time to create a family brainwork ritual so no child feels ‘left out’ of family time due to their unique academic requirements. It’s the atmosphere – and the sense of inclusion – or not – that makes learning tasks and quiet activity feel like a normal family routine or a punitive activity.”
Think ahead to post-secondary education
Of course, most grade 8 students don’t know what their plans are for next weekend, let alone their post-secondary studies. That said, many kids have a tendency toward interests in humanities, STEM, physical pursuits, or other general areas of study by the middle school years. Or, at least, they may feel more comfortable and competent in one of more of these areas.
It’s wise to continue with core subjects through to grade 12 when possible, as these high school credits will be prerequisite for a variety of post-secondary studies and institutions. By not narrowing down too early, students can leave more doors open to post-secondary study while they mature and refine their passions.
Grade 9 is the first time most students are afforded a choice of subjects, and you can help your child think ahead to diverse career opportunities so they may choose wisely. Open a conversation and keep it flowing!
Expect big emotions in the transition to high school
This is a time to make time, even if it sometimes feels like your teen is more interested in their phone than their family. High school brings multiple social and academic changes. Not to mention, that’s all against the backdrop of mental and physical changes already occurring in adolescence. There’s a reason teens are angsty!
Your child’s school experience will change not just in academic ways but in social ones. Instead of being the leaders and eldest students, new high schoolers are again the youngest, smallest and least familiar with the school environment. High schools often have multiple, sometimes geographically scattered ‘feeder schools’ and this may be the first time your child has been surrounded by so many new faces. They may find they’re separated from friends and feel a bit isolated as they find their way around in the first months of high school.
Help your child stay connected with friends and understand that technology, as concerning as it can be at times, is part of friendship and communication in the 21st century. Watch for changes in your child’s mood and behaviour. Be ready to seek mental health support if your child seems depressed, anxious, or withdrawn or if they’re struggling with behaviour, mood, sleep, appetite or interest in school and activities.
Ask your child how they are, what’s new, who they’re hanging with, and whether they need anything. Try open ended questions, like “What’s one thing that made you smile today?” or “How are you feeling about next fall?” so your child can lead the conversation and you can be there for them. High school is a huge transition, but you and your child can handle it, together.
How did your child find the transition from middle school to high school? Did you create any routines or find any resources that were helpful? Share your experience below!