• If the school has assigned a summer reading list, make sure your student reads the books. She doesn’t want to start behind the start line.
  • Get organized. If the school requires that she have certain materials, make sure she’s got them well before the first day of school. If obtaining such supplies is beyond your budget, contact the guidance office to find out what programs are in place so your child has what she needs.
  • Set up a study corner. If you haven’t done this in the elementary years, or even if you have, it’s doubly important to do this now. There will probably be more academic demands, with more and harder homework. Work with your student to set up a place for doing homework during the middle school years.

Relationships and Values

  • Talk with your child, not at her, about the new peer group. Talk about why it’s wise to hang back a bit during the first few weeks to see who they want to be friends with, who they should maybe stay away from, who is friendly, and who isn’t. Once a student gets identified with a particular group, it’s hard to change it. Encourage her to take the time to decide who she really wants to hang with.
  • Talk about bullying. It happens. It happens far too often and with devastating consequences. Talk about how not to get caught up in participating with the bullies and what to do if he becomes bullied. Talk about the importance of not being a bystander when others get hurt and not allowing herself to be victimized by people who would make her a victim. This can be complicated stuff. If you’re not sure how to handle it, do some research together.
  • Substance abuse. Here are some sobering statistics: 22.3 percent of kids start smoking by age 15. Over 50 percent of kids have tried alcohol by eighth grade and 25 percent have been drunk at least once. More than 60 percent of teens say that drugs are sold, used, or kept at their school. Twenty-five percent have had sex by age 15.Like it or not, your child’s values and your teaching about these issues will be challenged during the middle school years. Being clear about your own values and having calm discussions well ahead of time can help your child develop the strength to make good decisions.
  • Talk about romance. Oh, some kids have toyed with romance as early as sixth grade – or at least talked about it. But most kids don’t start pairing off until middle school. Talk about being respectful of self and of others. Talk about what it means to be loving and in love. Most important, talk about how important it is to explore many different relationships so they can make a good choice for a mate later on in life.

Transitions for Parents and Kids

The transition to the middle school years is often as challenging for parents as it is for the students. We’re saying goodbye to childhood and hello to the beginnings of adolescence. By taking the time to do some thoughtful planning and to have some very important discussions, parents can set the tone for success in the preteen years.