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How parents can help their child handle the ups and downs of the middle school years

As your child moves from elementary to middle school, both of you may find yourselves struggling with the transition. According to Susan Sassic of the Peachtree City Huntington Learning Center, your role now is as important as it was during pre-adolescence. “Middle school brings a variety of new social and academic challenges for children, and while many parents think this is the time to let your child handle it all on his or her own, it is crucial for you to stay involved,” says Sassic. “Helping your child learn to make decisions on his or her own and tackle challenges with confidence will serve him or her well in middle school and beyond.”

How can parents help their child thrive during the middle school years? Sassic offers these four tips:

1. Get to know the teachers. Middle school is the first time that most children take classes from as many as seven different teachers, all of whom have different teaching styles and expectations. Encourage your child to ask questions during classes and visit teachers afterward if he or she has concerns. Teachers will appreciate your student’s initiative in taking ownership for his or her academic achievement. You can support your child by introducing yourself to teachers at the beginning of the year and staying in contact. Ask for suggestions on how you can best support your child’s education and progress.

2. Be on standby as your child navigates the social scene. It’s not unusual for adolescents to struggle to find themselves in middle school, and in that quest, change friends frequently. For parents, such a drastic change from elementary school - where their children had a stable of friends and little drama - can be overwhelming. You may even want to jump in the middle of friend issues and disputes to assist, but give your child the opportunity to handle his or her own friend problems. Be available when your child wants to open up. Even a simple, “I’m here if you’d like to talk,” may be less intimidating for a child who perceives questions from Mom or Dad as intrusive, rather than helpful.

3. Help your child learn to balance his or her life. Without a doubt, middle school is more stressful than elementary school. Students must handle more homework from different teachers while also juggling more active social lives and extracurricular activities. Help your child develop a daily and weekly schedule, blocking out time for all school and other commitments. Your child’s daily routine should always include school, homework, dinner and plenty of sleep, but when adding in everything else your child wants to do (including clubs and extracurricular activities), is your child overscheduled? Avoid an exhausted child by teaching him or her to manage his or her time effectively.

4. Develop trusted homework strategies. Even the most organized elementary school student may struggle to manage the increased workload of middle school. Work together to develop an effective, efficient nightly homework routine. Help your child learn to use a planner or notebook to keep track of assignments and due dates. Each night, your child should go through his or her to-dos and prioritize. What assignment is likely to take the longest? What is due tomorrow versus later in the week? At parent-teacher conferences or report card time, talk with your child’s teachers about whether your at-home strategies are translating to classroom success. What suggestions do the teachers have for adjustments?
Learning to shift your role from that of the controller of your child’s life to a backstage supporter is not easy. “Middle school is full of change for parents and students,” said Sassic. “Remember that teachers and counselors are available for guidance as you traverse this unfamiliar landscape. Most importantly, remember that your job now is to help your child grow into an independent, responsible person and student.”

For more information, please contact Susan Sassic at 770-632-7336.

About Huntington Learning Center
Founded in 1977, Huntington Learning Center is the nation’s longest-running supplemental education services provider.  Today they continue to be an industry leader providing instruction in reading, writing, spelling, phonics, mathematics and study skills as well as SAT and ACT preparation to tens of thousands of students from kindergarten through 12th grade.To learn more or to locate a center near you, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.

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