7 Tips For Setting Your Child Up for Success throughout Middle School

Middle school can be a significant time of transition for kids and their families. Students at this stage are offered greater independence, tasked with more responsibility, and exposed to more complex social dynamics than they may have been used to in elementary school. At MLBLA, we believe that middle school is the perfect time to support kids in building the skills they need to thrive for years to come. 

 

  1. Practice time-management at home

Middle school is an ideal stage for kids to develop time management skills. One way to practice is to have them create a list of all the things they need to do and want to do each week, including homework, sleep, meals, extracurriculars, and family time. Then, work with them to identify how much time each activity takes. From there, they can begin creating their own daily schedule and learn how to balance their schoolwork with their other activities. 

  1. Encourage your child’s awareness of their learning style

One of our core beliefs at MLBLA is that there is no one “correct” way for kids to learn; that’s why our project-based learning methodology supports all different learning styles. The earlier kids understand how they learn, the more they can speak up when they need additional support. Some examples of different learning styles are: social, aural, visual, physical, verbal, logical, and solitary. Do you have a sense of which applies to your child? If so, we recommend checking in with them to ensure they’re aware of their learning style and feel comfortable communicating it to peers and adults. A child who can say, “I really need to see these ideas in pictures in order to understand them,” is in a great position to thrive!  

  1. Talk boundaries

Safety in middle school is a common concern for families, and it’s important for students to know that they have the skills to set boundaries both at school and online. We recommend sitting down with your child before the school year starts and having a conversation about boundaries: What words and actions make them feel uncomfortable? Do they know what they can do or who they can speak with if a classmate or adult says or does something hurtful? Are they aware of common boundaries that other children have and how to respect them? [link to bullying blog post] 

  1. Start identifying the Dream Team

The Dream Team is central to student safety and growth at MLBLA. This is a group of adults at home and at school that are invested in your child’s success. Over the summer, we recommend giving some thought to who might be on this team, whether it’s a coach, a family member, someone from a religious organization, or all of the above! 

  1. Identify coping mechanisms for stress

Since the start of middle school is a transition period with more independence than students may be used to, working on stress management techniques can help students manage their responsibilities without hurting their health. Some kid-friendly stress-management techniques include:

  • Taking ten deep breaths when stress is rising.

  • When a homework assignment or project feels stressful, breaking it up into more manageable pieces rather than trying to tackle the whole thing at once.

  • Taking an exercise break or channeling stress into a creative outlet like drawing.

  1. Talk leadership 

Leadership can feel abstract for kids, so as they’re heading into middle school we recommend making it a part of your daily conversations with your child. A good starting point is: Who are their role models? What leaders do they look up to the most? Who in their community, family, and friend groups do they view as “leaders” and why? Having these conversations on a regular basis can help kids make the connection that they, too, can be a leader, no matter their background, personality type, or abilities.

  1. Talk about strengths, interests, and areas of opportunity - without judgment. 

Middle school is an ideal life stage to get kids thinking about what their strengths and interests are, and what skills they may want to work on. We’re asking children at this stage to be self-aware without being self-deprecating. It’s the difference between your child saying “I’m bad at learning other languages; I must not be smart” and “I want to learn other languages, but I’m having trouble figuring it out.” In the first example, the child is placing a value judgment on their abilities; in the second they are identifying an area of opportunity and making space for the support they need. You can start simple: Ask your child what 5 things they love doing the most, and what 5 things they enjoy doing the least, and why. Framing activities they may struggle with as “areas of opportunity” can be more empowering than framing them as “weaknesses,” while still encouraging a sense of self-awareness and motivation to improve. 

 

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Terrence Davis