Riding the Bumps Together: Supporting your Student’s Transition From Middle School to High School

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Riding the Bumps Together: Supporting your Student’s Transition From Middle School to High School

Helpings Kids Transition to High SchoolFrom social changes to new academic challenges, the transition from middle school to high school can be a bumpy one. “Many students begin second-guessing themselves as they move from middle school to high school,” says ESA counselor Angela Davis. “Their confidence takes a hit, but there are things parents can do to support them through the transition.”

  1. Start with listening and understanding.

“Know that your children are going through a tough time and expect it to be rocky,” says Davis. In middle school, they’re told academics are important, but in high school, all of a sudden it matters for college acceptances. And teachers are expecting more, including a shift in emphasis from memorization to critical thinking. At the same time, students are navigating changes in long-term friendships and meeting new classmates.

Listen to what they say and what they don’t say, advises Davis. Whether it’s a subject or activity they used to be passionate about or a friend you heard about all the time, what they’ve stopped talking about may indicate a change with which they’re struggling.

2. Support but don’t fix.

Parents can support children by acknowledging the challenges and helping them think through options, but also by giving them time and space to figure things out.

“Parents are nearby at this point,” says Davis, “so it’s a good time to let them work through problems with a little support. That way, when they transition again as college freshmen, they’ll have the skills to tackle challenges without having their parents as close.”

Smoothing the path by removing obstacles isn’t doing your students any favors, but offering encouragement and expressing faith in their abilities can provide a boost to their confidence.

“The teenage brain is like a racecar without brakes,” Davis adds. “Parents can be the brakes for a while until students develop the executive function skills they need.” Those brakes can take the form of encouragement, advice, and limits where needed.

3. Take advantage of school resources.

When students tune out parent voices, teachers, advisers and school counselors can provide another way for students to hear the messages they need. During the transition period, teachers challenge students, but they also offer support and encouragement, as well as extra help.

“It’s also great when they can hear from older students,” says Davis. “Their experiences are relatable.” Avenues for finding student mentors include signing up for peer tutoring, joining arts and athletic programs, and connecting with student leaders.

4. For the students – Know you’re not alone.

“People may not be talking about it, but you’re not the only one feeling this way,” says Davis. It’s natural and it’s temporary. Focus on making the best decisions you can with the information you have in the moment. And most importantly, know that it’s okay to ask for help.”

Angela Davis is a licensed professional counselor with twelve years of experience in the field. She’s one of the coordinators of ESA’s Peer Leadership program, which is designed to help freshmen transition to upper school. Two seniors are assigned to each freshman advisory group. Throughout the year, they meet with the eight to ten freshmen in the group, lead them through activities, and help them adjust to the challenges of high school. Learn more about ESA’s counseling and peer leadership programs at ESAcadiana.com.

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