A Middle School Primer for Your Tweens

teacher explaining lesson to students
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Middle school is the transitional period between elementary school and high school. It's often a challenging time for preteens, but can also be quite interesting and typically it's a time of growth and change. Many students wonder how middle school will be different from elementary school, here's how you can help your tween learn all about middle school.

What Is Middle School?

In the United States, middle school is the period in a student's life that takes place after elementary school and before high school. Typically, the middle school grades are 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, although some school districts include 9th grade in their middle school programs. Other schools may designate 7th and 8th grades as the middle school years.

Challenges in Middle School

Middle school, which is also known as junior high school, can be an exciting time in a student's life, as well as a difficult time. Bullying tends to peak between the ages of 10-13, and many students find that the academic challenges of middle school are far more difficult than in elementary school.

Middle schoolers can expect an increase in homework, and projects and parents should help their children develop skills of independence and responsibility, as teachers and others will expect more from them.

But middle school does offer many perks, as well. Students often have more opportunities available to them in middle school. Many middle schools offer after-school clubs, sports teams, and other activities to their students. In addition, many school districts allow high-achieving middle schoolers to take high school courses for credit while still in middle school. Your child's school may also offer opportunities for exchange programs or spring break adventure travel.

Middle schoolers may also face numerous school rules, school dress codes, social pressures and more. In addition to puberty, middle schoolers face a number of social challenges including bullying, making friends and dealing with other peer problems as well as peer pressure.

Parents of tweens should take the time to prepare their children for middle school, as well as learn as much as possible about the middle school their child will attend. Your child's growth and development during the middle school years will set the stage for high school and beyond.

Be sure your middle schooler establishes a strong academic footing and be sure to spend some time during middle school to talk about high school and to prepare your child for the final years of his or her education. Stay involved and support your tween, and you'll be surprised how much your child changes during these important years.

Ways to Prepare Tweens for Middle School

  • Attend an open house or school orientation
  • Have an older sibling show your tween around the school complex
  • Encourage your tween to join a club as soon as school beings
  • Stay on top of your child's academics so he doesn't fall behind
  • Check-in with teachers periodically
  • Allow your tween to pick out new clothes and a backpack before school begins
  • Allow your tween to talk about any concerns he or she has about middle school, and how you might be able to help
  • Allow your child to enjoy newfound independence and reward him or her for responsible behavior
  • Begin a new school tradition — such as going out for ice cream on the first day of school or going back to school shopping together
  • Encourage your tween to join the school boosters, or try out for a sports team or school play
  • Talk about your own fun middle school experiences with your child
  • Be positive and upbeat about change — let your tween know that change can be exciting and fun
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  1. Child Trends. Trends in bullying.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.