The transition to middle school was extremely difficult for my daughter, who deals with generalized and social anxiety disorders. Change is really hard for her. She depends on structure and routines. I was a nervous wreck, too. She was still more on the sweet little girl side of the tween years than the moody, independence-seeking teen side. I worried about her finding her place with the other kids.
Here are some things we did over the summer to prepare her for starting middle school.
Telling her what to expect
Some of the topics we covered include:
- Changing classes
- More homework
- Having to change her clothes in the locker room for PE
- Boys becoming more annoying
- Classmates starting to “date” more
- Increased pressure
- Even more mean-girl drama
Talking about my own middle school experiences
I was shy, overweight, and poor, so middle school was rough for me. I used my experiences as a conversation starter to make sure she’d know what to do if she was bullied. I was also hopeful that it would show her words hurt and ensure that she’d think twice before giving into peer pressure and being mean to another child.
Visiting the school
We stopped by the school several times the summer before she started there. I arranged for a private tour, brought over paperwork, and visited their uniform shop with my daughter. We also drove by it as often as possible. The more a child sees it, the more familiar it will become.
Making a plan
We talked about what our routine would be for weeks. “I’ll drive you to school in the mornings and pick you up in the afternoons. You’ll do homework while I finish my writing for the day after school.”
She made plans to join the band. I assured her she could visit with her friends who are going to other middle schools on the weekend. Falling into a routine is easier when you have a plan.
Letting her know that it’s okay to be stressed
Starting middle school is scary! I knew my daughter’s anxiety was going to be high. I expected it, accepted it, and encouraged her to do the same. We also discussed tools she could use to combat it, such as journaling, breathing, and taking long bubble baths.
She got increasingly anxious in the weeks, and especially days, leading up to the start of middle school. It was challenging, but we got through it.
There were lots of tears on the first day of school, most of them from me! The transition was still challenging, it’s a big, scary change, after all. However, I know it would have been much more stressful and chaotic without all of the preparation we did before the first day of school.
Middle school is hard for most kids, but I’m pleased to say my daughter and I both made it through.