Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Madness -- Middle School as Preparation for High Schohol

I've been busy  -- how many times have we all used that excuse for not doing what we planned or hoped to do?  Or as an excuse for not doing something that someone else wanted us to do?  For me, I've been busy with an injured cat, writers conferences, book queries, editing and revising, and trying to survive bathroom construction.  Whew, I'm tired just writing about it -- so I am behind on blogging.

Today I want to talk about parenting middle school children.  I say children when the world knows they are entering adolescence and all the pitfalls and perils that accompany puberty.  These kids are growing and changing rapidly.  Their hormones are in turmoil.  They're meeting new friends and possibly losing elementary school friends.  Although most middle schools in my school district shelter their sixth graders, this is the first year they'll be going to other classes for different subjects:  Science and Math, though they may go to Language Arts or Social Studies in different classrooms, as well. This may be the first year they have lockers with combination locks.  This is the first year they'll "dress" for P.E.  Some schools may even have showers for middle school PE classes.  They'll be offered some "elective" or enrichment classes, such as Cooking, Home Economics, Art, Music, Foreign Language, or Shop.  It's a very exciting, confusing, and sometimes rude awakening period for middle school kids.

It's a shock to parents as well.  They'll now have to keep track of more than one teacher's assignments, grading methods, schedules, requirements.  Plus, there will be strong discipline given for more serious infractions.  There will be a Principal and Vice Principal.  If PTA wasn't a big deal in elementary, it becomes a much bigger deal in Middle School and then hugely important in High School.  I found that those parents active in the PTA in elementary school were the same ones active in middle and on into high school.  

My words of wisdom:  Be Aware, Be Prepared

Go to Back to School Night.  Meet all your child's teachers.  Get their syllabuses and handouts, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.  Use their online tools.  We had "School-Loop" to check on assignments and grades. Stay "in the Loop."  Don't let your child get behind or be unprepared for quizzes, projects, essays, or tests.  Middle School is the introduction to high school.  Both parents and kids must prepare themselves.

Join the PTA, attend meetings, help with fund raisers - as many as you can.  Get on their mailing list. Volunteer as often as you can. Help in any way you can.  Be present and active.  You and your child will benefit.

Suggest your child take up a band instrument or a sport.  Join the dance or theater group, if offered.  all in preparation for High School.  The sooner your child gets involved in these activities, the sooner they can be proficient, competitive, competent.  They'll make more friends, feel more a part of the school, and have to learn to manage their time.  Plus the more involved and active they are, the more they'll have for their High School Resume.  It's not too soon to plan for college applications.  Colleges want well-rounded students with friends and doing other activities besides having high academic scores.  Plan ahead.

Expect the unexpected.  There will be emotional meltdowns -- can't be prevented, but can be expected so you can be supportive and not caught by surprise.  Practice Patience.  They may have friends turn on them.  They may have new friends that you don't know and might not like.  You still have to be there for your child.  Practice being "Non-Judgmental."  There will be "regression" -- back to a time when your kid watched certain movies and TV shows -- they'll watch them again as a release and a comfort mechanism.  You might want to sit and watch these shows with them -- you can both take comfort that home is a safe place to be and Mom and Dad can listen or offer silent and supportive companionship.  

Maintain as many home and family routines as you can.  Shared mealtimes.  Family outings, get togethers, movie nights, game nights, picnics, trips, vacations -- whatever you can manage to keep the family unit strong and intact to face these troubled months (and years).  

Enjoy each other.  Find the good in the craziness and chaos.  Have some fun.  Hug and kiss and laugh together.  These times are fleeting and precious.

Tags:  Middle School, High School, Parents, PTA, Clubs, Activities, Support, Activities, Academics, Grades, Help.

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