Middle School Jitters Advice

Written by Sierra Alvis

Fall will be here sooner than you think and its back-to-school time.  For some, this means entering middle school which means new responsibilities. The prospect of new teachers, school dances and bullies doesn't worry 10-year-old Saga Beedy. In fact, she can't wait to enter middle school.
Tips on helping your sixth grader:
Before the first day of school, walk your child through campus. Help map out his classes and practice opening his locker.
Encourage your child to participate in a sport or club to help establish his sense of belonging.
Teach your child to tackle tasks one at a time and not to get overwhelmed by the big picture.
Help your child keep an organized binder and filing system. Create a calendar that pinpoints important test and project due dates.

"I'm kinda nervous," says Saga. "But I'm really excited about my new teachers, more homework and getting to switch from class to class."

Saga is confident she'll be able to successfully juggle her school schedule with other activities. She has a solid network of friends and family, and knows enough kids in the seventh and eighth grades to recognize friendly faces in the halls.

However, not all middle schoolers are as lucky as Saga. Many adolescents enter sixth grade without the faintest idea of how to get organized or study for important tests, says Hansi Linn, a primary school teacher in San Francisco.

"Up to this point, a 10-year-old's school life consisted of one room, one teacher and the same kids. Middle school is an entirely new ballgame," she says.

Problems pop up when kids lack the vocabulary to describe the stress and anxiety they may encounter, explains Linn. Combine that with hormones, school dances and gym class, and you've got a big challenge for both kids and parents. "They might not know how to get help or even understand that they need it."

What advice can she give parents?

"Offering extra support can definitely give children a leg up in succeeding both socially and academically," Linn says.

Saga and her mother are a good example of a family that works together. Part of Saga's confidence may be attributed to her mother's role in preparing her.

Along with coaching her daughter on studying and organizational skills, Saga and Åsa Ollsson (her mom), a cultural arts director for Girls Incorporated have joined a mother-daughter support group. Together they attend weekly meetings where they ask questions and talk through anxieties. If a girl is having a problem, she can ask any of the moms for advice.

At the same time, Ollsson believes that parents need to trust their child's good judgment.

"Whether you've prepared them or not, it's a difficult time for kids," says Ollsson. "But I'm not nervous. The girls know they'll be faced with making decisions and if they do make mistakes, they'll learn from them."

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