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Are you having issues sleeping at night because your 5th grader just came home with a letter about middle school? Did you grab that bottle of wine after the 5th grade parent night because you’re overwhelmed with the fact that your little baby is going to middle school?? Well I promise you’re not alone…lots of wine was consumed after the 5th grade parent night!! Here are 7 things you can start doing for your 5th grader now to help make the middle school transition easier for them:
Don’t let your anxiety become their anxiety.
I know your nervous about them starting middle school. Every parent is…you don’t have to say it…it’s like a fact. Facts of life…the sun will rise in the east and 5th grade parents are nervous. There are several different reasons parents get nervous about middle school. Maybe you’re worried because you hear about these terrible stories in the news…or because you hated your own middle school experience…or because your older children struggled in middle school…or because your child is already struggling in elementary school…or because you don’t know how middle school works nowadays. Whatever you’re worried about…I promise you…you’re not alone. It’s okay to worry…..it’s normal…BUT…it needs to stop with you. Don’t let your anxiety become your son/daughter’s anxiety.
What do I mean by that exactly?? Well I don’t think parents purposefully make their kids anxious. I think your children pick up on your fears, read your tone of voice, read your body language, and listen to the conversations you have with other adults. And if they know you’re worried about something, then they’ll become worried too. I know they’re pre-teens and they act like they’re too cool for their parents sometimes…but they secretly still respect you. So if they hear that you’re worried about middle school…then they’ll become worried too!!
Don’t use middle school as a negative motivator
You’ve all heard the phrase “Well when you get to middle school ___________.” You can fill in the blank but this is a common phrase used in elementary schools and homes. “When you get to middle school you’re going to have more homework than this.” “When you get to middle school they’ll expect you to do this on your own.” “When you get to middle school life is going to be so much harder.”
Let’s erase that sentence stem from our vocabulary…like right now!! Every time a parent or teacher uses that phrase in a negative way to try to “motivate” a student to step it up…it just creates anxiety about middle school. Also since when does using a negative phrase like that actually motivate a student…it doesn’t. There’s no need to talk about middle school negatively…so let’s change our language.
Start a homework routine now
Spend the rest of 5th grade teaching your student a daily homework routine that includes organization skills and time management. These skills are going to be very helpful in middle school and they don’t come naturally to students. These skills will need to be taught for a few weeks until they become a daily habit. If you’re not sure how to teach organization skills or how to set up a homework routine, check out this Organization Bootcamp. It has a lot of great activities to help students learn how to use a homework planner, manage their time wisely, organize their folders/backpacks, and create a homework plan.
Talk it up!!
“Oh my goodness middle school sounds like so much fun!! I wish I could go with you…did you see how big that gym was and did you hear how well the band played?? I’m jealous my middle school definitely wasn’t as cool as your school.” Y’all…talk it up!! I need your student to think middle school is going to be awesome!!! Get them excited about middle school…give them something to look forward too!! The more excited they are, the less anxiety they’ll have, and the smoother the transition will be!!
Start going to middle school events
Another way to get your student excited about middle school is by attending middle school events!! If your student is interested in band, then take them to the next concert!! If your student is interested in basketball, then take them to a basketball game!! Check out the school’s calendar and plan to attend at least three events that interest them. Make a fun night of it…get them some middle school gear to wear, get them some food at the concessions, cheer at the event, and go out for a treat afterwards to talk about how fun it was!! Honestly, I’d recommend you start doing this at the beginning of 5th grade…the earlier the better!!
Create a monthly “night out”
This is an awesome tradition that you’ll have to start now!! Once a month, plan a night out with your 5th grader!! Here are the guidelines: it needs to be a set day each month (ex: first Tuesday), it needs to be purposeful, it needs to include an activity they enjoy (ex: snow cones, movie, arcade, putt putt, paint night), and no siblings are allowed. The purpose of the night out is to continue to build that relationship with your pre-teen and to spend quality time together.
Why do you need to start now?? Well the longer you wait to start this tradition…the less likely it will continue over the years. You only have a year or two left of being your son/daughter’s “go to person” for advice. Pretty soon they’re going to start turning to their friends for things and you’re going to be that “old” person who doesn’t “know anything” about being a teenager. So start this tradition now and even when they’re “too cool” for their parents hopefully they’ll still enjoy your monthly night outs together.
Start telling yourself “It’s just 6th Grade”
Tell yourself this over and over…it’s just 6th grade. It’s just another year of school and it’s really not worth all of the stress…the only difference is they’re going to school in a different building. Keep telling yourself this throughout the year…it’s just 6th grade. What’s the worst that could happen…it’s just 6th grade…it’s not college…it’s not even high school…it’s just 6th grade. And I promise you…it’ll be okay…you’re going to make it…they’re going to make it…everyone is going to be fine…because it’s just 6th grade.
Update November 2020: Unfortunately I no longer blog about my counseling adventures/experiences. However, I know these posts are a huge resource to others so I’ve kept all of my old counseling posts on this page for your use. Enjoy!!