We are excited to have Sue Blaney as a guest blogger this week. Sue Blaney is an author, speaker and communications expert. Please visit www.ParentingTeensInfo.com to get tips, resources and information. There you can learn about Parenting Through Middle School, a web-based multi-media tool kit for parents.
For parents whose children are in their last year of elementary school, spring can come with excitement and trepidation. Middle School looms in the not-too-distant future, and along with it come hopes, expectations and sometimes a bit of fear - both for parents and the middle-schoolers-to-be. It isn’t too early to begin your preparations, and here are four things you can do:
Offer reassurance and responsibility - Most youngsters have a combination of excitement and worry about entering middle school. The prospect of meeting many new kids is very exciting, as is the realization that they are growing up! But even the most self-assured youngster suffers from some internal doubts, so even if they don’t look like they need it, offer reassurance that middle school will be a great adventure, and they will rise to the challenge of this natural next step. With the increase in your teen’s independence should come an increase in responsibility. Your teen can understand the logic of this and will be more engaged and compliant if s/he has some input into the new rules and responsibilities that will be put in place.
Read up - Adolescence means big changes! The child you have been raising is about to change in fundamental ways physically, cognitively, emotionally and more... and it will help you if you spend some time learning what to expect. It isn’t enough that you experienced adolescence yourself, you need to be armed with more information than that. Their natural developmental changes will impact your family’s communication, dynamics, expectations, and rules. An informed parent can be proactive, heading off problems before they start. Without some “book learning” you won’t be equipped to know if your teen’s behavior is in the range of “normal” or if you have some issues to address. There are many good books, websites and programs available. Here is a handout with some tips to help you understand your teen’s growth and development factors.
Prepare for an explosion of interest in their social life - Middle school is a very social time for kids, and although this focus on friends is a positive developmental step, it can be confusing for parents. While you can’t pick your teen’s friends, you really do have an important role to play as a guide to help your teen make his way through the social scene. Begin now. Talk to your youngster about friendship - what kind of traits she looks for in friends and what kind of friend she wants to be, preparing her for a thoughtful entry into the new and broader social world of middle school. If your teen has a friend from a different elementary school encourage them to connect before fall so she has another friendly face she knows when school starts.
Go to all information sessions; be organized - Most schools offer an opportunity for parents to go to the school and meet the principal and other key players. Be sure to attend all the information sessions that you can. You will get a feel for the school and the expectations that will be put upon your child in a way that your teen is unlikely to communicate. Attending these functions tells your teen that you care and value his education. It is also important that you be organized with the school-related paperwork. Start a folder now with the information as you receive it. Learn how the school communicates with parents and be sure to get on all the email lists that apply. Middle schoolers are famous for not handing notes and flyers from the school to parents, so do your part in staying on top of things. Volunteer when you can; it provides one of the best ways for you to have a sense of your young teen’s middle school experiences.
The transition to middle school begins before elementary school ends, so get on board and help support your young teen for this exciting next step.