Help Your Child Achieve Success in Middle School

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Middle school is for children between the ages of 10 and 14 years. At this time children begin to change emotionally and intellectually. They look at the world in a different light and the way they feel, learn and interact with peers and figures of authority changes considerably. These changes are challenging and today's society and peer pressure creates tension and conflicts. This is reflected in adolescent behavior both in school and at home.

It is normal for adolescents to have conflicts and contradictions in their lives. Both positive and negative qualities become more evident during the adolescent years, as do their strong and weak points. In order to empathize with and understand adolescents, some common characteristics must be recognized.

Adolescents want to be independent but are still young enough that they need to be protected and even coddled a little.

Children often withdraw during this stage of their lives, needing privacy, yet wanting to be accepted by their peers.

Adolescents often demand certain privileges for themselves but don't take responsibility. In the meantime they are becoming aware of the world's social issues and the welfare of others who are less fortunate.

Children who attend middle school have high levels of emotional and physical energy. At times they will be highly active and at others completely idle. Many adults frown on this contrast and label children because of it.

Adolescents from different cultures often have difficulty developing their identity while following conflicting demands of home and school. They have to maintain family traditions and values while meeting the demands of peers and teachers, which often differ totally.

Many parents are actively involved in their children's education during the elementary school years. When children start middle school the involvement of parents decreases dramatically. Parents must realize that their involvement in their child's education during the middle school years is important to the child's academic success. If your child's school doesn't ask for parent participation during this time in your child's life, you must still continue to be involved in the education process.

Research that has taken place in recent years shows that children whose parents remain involved in their education have a much higher level of academic success. This is beneficial to both the student and the school because:

Academic programs are more successful when parents are involved.

Grades and test scores are higher.

The student's behavior and attitude is more positive.

The student's family is easily able to understand the school system.

Teachers are better able to understand students from different cultures.

Students who are facing conflicting cultures at home and school receive positive support when parents are involved.

School can become and extension of the home in preserving culture, traditions and values.

It is imperative that parents from all walks of life support their middle school-aged children and let them know that they are interested in their academic success. Suggestions for doing so include:

Make your child feel good about him/herself. This builds self-respect and self-esteem.

Ask your child daily if there are letters or messages from the school.

Use an agenda to communicate with the school. Both parents and teachers must read it daily and respond to any correspondent in order to keep the lines of communication open.

Set aside a specific time each day to talk with your child about school.

Listen to your child's concerns. Be supportive of the positive and help him find a solution to any problems or negative aspects of school.

Encourage your child to read and to hand homework assignments in on time.

Make homework a priority.

Do not scold your adolescent child if his grades are lacking. Instead, support him and help him find a way to improve his grades.

Set aside a specific time and place for your child to complete school assignments and projects. Be certain he has all the necessary tools and equipment to complete the work.

As a parent, your involvement in middle school will differ from your participation in elementary school. Your child most likely begun rotation of subjects and ill have several teachers. The schedule in middle school is more complicated than it was at the elementary level and adolescent children will not be as open to your presence at school. In order to respect your child's need for independence and privacy and still be actively involved in his education, follow these tips:

Communicate with and get to know all of your child's teachers.

Get to know school policy and the curriculum that is being taught.

Meet with teachers to be sure your child's needs are being met.

Join parent support groups and get to know other parents. This type of group is a good source of information on what's happening in the school.

As your child's teachers to keep you informed of test scores and academic and behavioral issues, both positive and negative.

Be open to suggestions from the school when issues come up. Do not be confrontational. Stay calm and talk it out.

Follow-up on all correspondence that comes home from the school.

Being involved in your child's education doesn't mean visiting the school on a daily basis. Be open to suggestions, be a good listener, be supportive and keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your child and yourself and the school. This will ensure your child's academic success in middle scho

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