Transitioning from parenting an elementary school aged student (5-10) to a middle school in San Diego aged student (11-14) can be a confusing and frustrating time. There's a lot of change and growth that takes place in kids as the prefrontal cortex of the brain starts developing around age 11, and personalities and learning style can sometimes seemingly change overnight. There is also a significant adjustment to new surroundings and schedules at school: multiple teachers, subjects, classrooms, and expectations, all with an alternating schedule. I think it's safe to say your child may struggle. They need you to be quick to encourage them and reinforce your confidence in them. There will be a transitional period for everyone and it will take time, but you must remember: time is on your side -- it’s only middle school.
Parenting this age calls for wisdom and much flexibility. There needs to be more room for independence as your child becomes more self-aware, opinionated, and naturaly desiring more freedom and responsibility. As parents, a transition may occur to add the roles of a coach and a cheerleader while continuing in the many other pre-existing roles we might be still learning.
With all this in mind, here are some helpful hints to help parents through this transitional period:
1. ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE
You still need to monitor and hold your middle schooler accountable. However, try to look ahead and think about the consequences of doing too much for your child now. Remember, "Trust, yet verify."
You know your child best. Some will need more monitoring than others, but if there is ever a time for a student to learn and grow through failing, it is in middle school.
Grades in 6th and 7th are not as important as the grades received in later years, so if your student can learn how to get organized now, before entering 8th grade, then he or she will truly learn. There is also sometimes a blessing in letting them earn a lower grade than maybe you are comfortable with, but that B or C may just be the catalyst for working harder next time!
2. LEAD THEM TO LEAD
Have your student be the one to contact his or her teachers or coaches about question, concerns, or schedules. This will help your student to see that school is his or her responsibility - not the parents'. Some students will beg you to contact the teacher or coach; refrain. Eventually, they will step up to the challenge.
3. TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED
Be the adult. When you get upset, take time to think more objectively, develop a wise plan, and demonstrate patience. By setting the example in these trying situations, we provide a model for our children, and show our children unconditional love. They are definitely growing up, but their stage in life is still accurately defined as 'childhood'; they still need very active and engaged parents.
Please connect with us next week for the continuation of 7 Great Tips on How To Parent the Middle School Student, Part 2.