By Dr. Jan Hittelman
The transition from Elementary to Middle School represents a significant developmental shift from childhood to adolescence. In addition to increased expectations regarding independent student responsibilities, there are also neurological, hormonal, emotional and social changes that occur. Increased concerns regarding at-risk behaviors also become an issue. Not surprisingly, this can be a time of heightened anxiety for parents and students alike. To maximize the chances for a successful transition, it is helpful to have a proactive approach and not simply react to challenges as they occur.
To help with this task, consider the following suggestions:
• Create an opportunity to have a special family event to acknowledge this important transition in your child’s life. A special meal, trip, or activity to commemorate this event and honor your child’s accomplishment, will help make this important time more meaningful and significant.
• At a positive moment, start with a conversation with your adolescent. Try to elicit their feelings and concerns regarding this transition. In a supportive way, share your concerns as well.
• Based upon you conversation, identify areas of concern and try to develop an action plan to address them. Empower your child with ownership of this process, while letting them know that you are eager to support them in any way that you can.
• Write down your action plan and review it together to ensure that it accurately reflects both your child’s and your thoughts.
• As your child begins their transition to their new learning environment, check in often regarding how things are going. Reassess your action plan and make modifications as needed. Identify unanticipated challenges or concerns and brainstorm strategies to address these issues as well.