Middle school can be quite a challenging time – for kids and parents alike. As your tween experiences new changes tries new things, and fights for independence, you’re trying to keep them safe, happy, and focused on learning. It’s a lot.
But the start of a new school year presents a chance to start fresh and set your middle schooler up for success. Beyond shopping for the inevitably long list of school supplies, there are a number of things you can add to your back-to-school checklist to help lay the foundation for a great year.
Get the “Right” Clothes
Teenage fashion is constantly changing, and often in ways parents don’t “get.” But middle schoolers spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of them, which means they’re constantly working to keep up with the latest trends. So, when you take them clothes shopping for the new school year, try to keep that in mind and give them a little leeway on what they pick out. You don’t want them wearing anything inappropriate or against school rules, but it’s important for them to feel comfortable and confident with their appearance.
Take Them for a Haircut
Your child will, of course, need just the right hairstyle to go with their new ensembles. Schedule a hair appointment a couple of weeks before the first day of school – this way, they’ll have time to adjust to their new cut and learn how to best style it. (The same rules go when prepping for school picture day!)
Plan Your Communications
This is a common age to think about giving your child a cell phone. But there are so many questions: Do they really need one? What if they break or lose it? Which one do I buy for them? This is certainly a personal decision to make, but there are a number of parental control apps that could help you feel more at ease should you decide to take the plunge. No matter your choice, make sure your middle schooler has all the contact information they could need, especially in case of an emergency.
Visit the School
Even if this isn’t your child’s first year in middle school, it can still be helpful to visit the building before the first day. This way, you can take their schedule with you and make sure they know which rooms they’ll be going to and where their locker is.
Set a Schedule
This can be one of the most challenging – yet beneficial – things to do. Getting your middle schooler into a routine will help them be at their best and ready to learn. It all starts with having a good breakfast and waking up with enough time to get out the door without having to stress and rush. After school, it’s all about time management. Factor in time for an after-school snack, time to study and do homework, and time to decompress. And while setting a bedtime for older kids can be a struggle, they need plenty of sleep (around 9 to 10 hours) to be healthy and alert – so try to help them maintain a good sleep schedule.
Help with Organization
Being organized doesn’t come naturally for many people – especially tweens adjusting to a more complex schedule and workload. You can help them get on track by organizing their school supplies. For example, it may be easier for them to have color-coded notebooks and book covers for each subject. You can also help them develop the best way to keep track of their homework and test dates. And at homework time, they might need assistance prioritizing what to do first.
Above all, make sure to keep the lines of communication open. Things may need to be adjusted as the school year goes on, so listening to your middle schooler’s needs (both spoken and unspoken) is key.
And of course, when your child is all dressed and ready on that first day back, make sure you snap that ever-so-embarrassing picture of them – they’ll thank you later (probably).