Tips To Help Kids Cope With Middle School Anxiety
The transition from elementary school to middle school is overwhelming. Back when I was in middle school, it was called junior high, and you didn’t start it until you were in 7th grade. Nowadays middle school starts in 6th grade, and both parents and children can’t help but feel anxious about the change.
The topic of middle school anxiety and fears has been extensively covered in books and movies. The reason for that is that preteens are going through substantial change at this time.
By the time children leave the cuddly environment of the elementary school, most children are not completely ready for all the issues preteens have in middle school. Body image issues, bullying, increased responsibility, popularity and raging hormones are just some of the problems that many middle schoolers face every day.
As a parent of a 6th grader, I must admit that my level of anxiety at the beginning of the academic year was just as high, if not higher than my son’s. One of the first things that crossed my mind was how my son was going to keep track of all of the periods, all of the teachers, and is he going to remember his locker combination?
Here are some tips to help your child adjust to middle school:
Reassuring that they will be ok
Most students fear they will not be able to adjust to a new school environment or keep up with homework. It is important to reassure your child that it is ok to feel apprehensive about a new situation. That it might take a little while for everything to become routine, but that you know they’ll do just fine.
It is also important to remind them that middle school is a step up in their education, so the homework and activities at school will be a little harder than what they’ve been used to.
Try to express something positive about your memories of middle school and how everything turned out ok in the end. As stressful as this time is, is it’s important for parents to show an attitude of confidence. Children are quite skillful at reading our feelings, so if you are anything as anxious as I was on my son’s first day in middle school, it is important for you to move those feelings aside and put on your best “poker face.” Communicating your anxiety with your child could make the situation worse.
Get in touch with your child’s school counselor
School counselors are a great asset for students and parents. Many times children will listen to their counselors better than they would listen to their parents. It is important for parents to maintain a good relationship with their child’s school counselor and to relate any changes at home that may affect your child’s performance at school.
Help your child get organized
Take some time to go to your child’s school to help locate locker, classrooms, and bathrooms. Most schools will have a map that your child can use until completely familiarized with the layout of the school. Knowing where things are located beforehand can reduce the anxiety of the first day. Also, a lot of the problems that beginner middle schoolers face is just getting organized. With an average of 6 periods and about the same number of teachers, getting organized and knowing when assignments are due becomes a priority. Take some time to help your child organize his or her agenda and make it a habit of checking it often. Buy different color binders for different subjects, so it’s easier to locate them for different classes. Help your child create a habit of cleaning their backpack once a week at least. That way no important paper or assignment gets crunched at the bottom of the backpack.
Set some time for homework
Part of the stress and anxiety of middle school comes from homework, exams, and several teachers, as opposed to an elementary school where your child only had to deal with one main room teacher the entire day.
Most school districts have an online system that both parents and students can check on their school progress. Checking grades and making sure that all assignments are being turned in on time reduces unnecessary stress and anxiety. It is much better to find out your child is struggling at the beginning of the academic year, then to get a nasty surprise when report cards come out.
Check your child’s use of technology
Technology can be a curse and a blessing at the same time. Knowing your child has a cell phone to reach you in an emergency can be very reassuring to parents. The negative side of technology, however, is very concerning. Parents should get in the habit of checking their child’s phone as well as monitoring sites they are visiting. Cyberbullying is an insidious problem that many parents are unaware of. There are ways to block certain websites, monitor use and what’s being communicated. Unsupervised technology can lead to serious problems.
Encourage extracurricular activities
Too many extracurricular activities can backfire and make your child even more anxious and stressed. To sort out the best type of activities for your child, identify your child’s passions and interests and get them into groups outside the school.
Teach your child how to practice deep breathing
Deep breathing exercises are a great way to reduce anxiety. Teach your child to take in deep, slow breaths that start deep in the belly. Focusing on your breath as it comes in through the nose and out through the nose has a very calming, soothing effect. Deep breathing can also be practiced at school when your child feels anxious and overwhelmed.