Beginning middle school as a sixth grader can be tough for many children. It can be hard getting used to having a locker, switching classes, and adjusting to a different social scene than was likely experienced in elementary school. Middle school is often one of the most difficult periods in a child’s life and often when bullying is most frequently experienced. While this age and transitioning to middle school can be tough, here are a few suggestions to help make it a more positive experience:
1) Sit down with your child before school starts and go over their schedule with them (if you have a copy of it). Help them map out where each class is in relation to their locker. If you don’t have their schedule, at least sit down with them and help them to learn where the cafeteria, gym, and other important rooms in the school are located.
2) Have them practice opening a combination lock so that they can get used to doing it quickly.
3) Remind them that socially it is important to make friends that they like and who share similar interests with them to some degree. Too often, many children enter middle school with the intention of trying to be very popular or make friends with the popular kids. Sometimes this works, but if that child does not connect naturally with that crowd, they can end up not making as many friends and not having as many high quality friendships. In some cases, if the child has little in common with the so-called popular kids and continually tries to be friends with them, it can result in the child being teased. It is much better for a child to enter middle school with an open mind and try to make friends naturally based on mutual interest and qualities rather than popularity. This is obviously much easier said than done, but something that can be very helpful to keep in mind for children who may be overly concerned with popularity.
4) Having your child participate in afterschool activities can be a great way to foster friendships. Sports teams in the community can also be helpful.
5) If your child struggled a lot socially last year and continues to struggle at the beginning of middle school, consider having them see a therapist to address these issues. A therapy group focused on addressing bullying/social issues at this age can also be very helpful. I will actually be running a group at my practice addressing these issues, which starts in Mid September. There may also be other groups in the community that focus on these issues. For general social skill difficulties, there are a wide variety of groups available in the community.
6) Talk with your child about how they can effectively handle bullying either before school starts if you think it likely will occur or after the fact if they report difficulties with being bullied (see previous blog post for suggestions on this).
I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Middle school is a big transition period for children developmentally, socially, and academically. If you see your child struggling, it is important to seek professional assistance to prevent the issue from getting worse. It is also beneficial to help your child to use the transition to middle school as an opportunity to become somewhat more independent and self-sufficient.
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Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He specializes in work with children, adolescents, and young adults, and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached at (301)-385-2610 or email@example.com.
For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information and availability for appointment times.
*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*