How to help your child move to middle school from grade school

I am a middle school teacher. It is very common for our future students to experience many insecurities about coming to our school. I encourage parents to bring their child to the school as early as possible to put aside these fears. Some of the most common fears are the following:

Opening lockers. Locker combinations are new to some students and are very confusing. Parents should help the child practice opening and closing the locker until the child feels very comfortable. Make sure the locker is located where the child can reach and easily read the combination. If there is a problem, contact the school as soon as possible.- Getting to and from classes in the allotted time. Many students complain there is not enough time and are worried they will be tardy to their next class. Parents should walk the halls with their child and time how long it takes to get from one class to the next. Help the child realize there is plenty of time if they use it wisely.

Parents should help their child develop action plans such as the following that can eliminate fears:

Getting books for two classes when going to the locker. This way, the child doesn't have to return to his/her locker between classes, and he/she will have time to go the restroom and get a drink of water.

Developing a system for keeping their classes straight. Parents should buy their child folders or organizers. Children should be encouraged to keep each subject papers together so that when they get to that class they have the papers. Sufficient school supplies should be purchased to last all year. A child will probably need more than one tablet per class.

Above all, parents should spend time talking to their child about his or her fears. The child should be helped to understand that fears are normal and that parents will be there to help him or her work through those fears. - Janet Evans, Shelley, Idaho

What we did:

Dispel anxiety

As a middle school teacher's aide, I see many cases of difficult transition from elementary school. These might be largely avoided with a discussion in August calling the child's attention to the changes in store in September. Dispelling the child's anxiety is key.

I suggest encouraging the youth to do the following:

Find something fun or interesting to share with the family about each teacher the youth has. The elementary school norm of one teacher all day usually becomes a middle school adventure of many teachers.

Practice opening a lock before school starts so there is no apprehension about it. The previous elementary school classroom "cubbies" for stashing schoolwork will become lockers with combination locks.

Get a planner and use it. Write down every assignment from every class and never rely on memory to keep it all sorted out.

Receive a priesthood blessing before the first day of school. - Jill Taylor, Fort Bragg, Calif.

Be involved

I teach middle school and have found that if parents will do a few things with their student before school starts, the child will succeed. I suggest the following:

Go to school the week before it starts. Pick up the child's schedule and take a "dry run" through the school. Most teachers are in their rooms and love to meet new students.

Locate the bathroom, lunchroom, locker rooms, bus stops.

Get involved. The parents who contact me and let me know they care are the parents of successful students. - Pat Drussel, Payson, Utah

`Heaven at home'

Be excited about the change for your students.

Make sure you get the supplies they need and the materials required. Most schools have funds donated by groups in the area that will help you purchase supplies if you are unable to purchase everything your students need.

Make sure they know that they have "heaven at home" to come home to at the end of the day. Invite them to bring their friends home.

Be supportive. This is so important. Just don't be too demonstrative of it in front of their friends. - Cathy Wacaser, Cody, Wyo.

Instill respect

Parents, whether in a two-parent or single-parent household, need to coordinate with the school. If you have any difference on views with the school, such as with procedures, don't undercut the school in front of the children. My children were always told that if they had trouble in school with a teacher, I would be glad to listen to them. I tried to be fair but tried not to oppose school authority figures without reason.

I tried to instill respect in my children for school authority and to appreciate that authority. I tried to help my children understand that the teachers are mentors and friends. In other words, if a child understands that a teacher is there to help and not to be feared, then the transition from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school will be easier. - Jesse Wagstaff, Beltsville, Md.

Show belief in youth

Continue to show your youth that you believe in her/his ability to succeed in school and that you expect her/him to do her/his best.

Give plenty of opportunity for your youth to be able to discuss positive anticipations about his/her new school, as well as any fears and concerns, through informal conversations and planned discussions such as family home evening.

Be certain that you and your child attend any orientation programs provided by the new school.

Help your youth realize that it is important to figure out how to succeed in classes taught by least favorite teachers as well as by most favorite teachers.

Encourage your youth to become involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. Before school begins, help your youth find out and meet important deadlines such as physical examinations for sports.

Remember the Lord's law of moral agency as you act as a consultant to your child while he/she chooses his/her classes at the new school. Help your youth keep long range goals in mind by listening carefully as he/she expresses those goals. - Marie F. Hill, Tucson, Ariz.

How to checklist:

1 Provide opportunity to discuss any fears or concerns; give priesthood blessings.

2 Help them understand school officials are there to help.

3 Orient them before school starts; help them be familiar with building, class schedule.

4 Teach them organization; get required school supplies.


Aug. 30 "How to withstand temptation."

Sept. 6 "How to control your temper as a parent."

Sept. 13 "How to triumph over a physical disability."

Sept. 20 "How to help teenagers benefit from general conference."

Sept. 27 "How to cope with the death of a parent."

Oct. 4 "How to apply general conference counsel in your life."

Oct. 18 "How to find balance as primary care-giver of a sick or elderly loved one."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to get out of a rut in your career," "How to develop a healthy dating relationship," "How to place people above tasks."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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