Robinson: Your child is in middle school. What now?

July 23, 2013 

Robinson

— As a middle school teacher, I frequently get questions from parents about what they can do to help their children succeed in middle school. Here is what I tell them.

Your middle school children will try to push you away because they want to be independent, but what they really want is a close personal relationship with you and other caring adults. Talk with your child. Become involved with his life. Don’t let your middle school child shut him or herself up with no one to talk to except a video game.

Intelligence is not fixed; it is ever expanding and deepening. Expose your middle school child to great books, compelling ideas and complex problems. Read with your child every day, if possible. Have dinner as a family. (Did you know that eating together as a family regularly is one of the predictors of success in college?)

Challenging assignments will help middle school children work up to their potential. Encourage them to do their best; give them a quiet, orderly space to work in. Don’t let them listen to their music while they study. Check with the teacher’s calendar on the school website and keep up with their grades by looking at the parent portal (sign up for it at the school).

Middle school students want to be liked by their peers, and so put great stock in their peers’ opinions. Know who your middle school student’s friends are. Check out every activity, party or school function. Know where your middle school student is at all times.

Middle school students’ bodies are changing inside and outside. Have some talks with them to explain that this is normal. If you tell them the facts, they won’t be so gullible as to believe the undoubtedly not factual things other kids tell them.

Don’t over-schedule middle school students. Eat dinner at a reasonable time. Don’t let them stay up all night watching television, surfing the web or talking on the phone, so that they sleep in class the next day. Monitor these things every night. Make sure they have breakfast so they are not starving at 10:30. Make sure they have a good lunch.

Enjoy your middle school students. They are changing so fast that if you blink your eyes, you will miss it. And take heart: It’s only for three years.

Deborah H. Robinson

Columbia

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