I can fondly think back to my middle school years. Glasses, hideous jeans that I thought were cool, and glitter eye make-up galore. Peanuts compared to what our middle school kids face nowadays.

We moved to St. Augustine right at the start of our son’s fifth-grade year. Fifth grade was tough for him being in a new school and a recent diagnosis of ADD. I was thrilled to see that year come to an end and excited for what sixth grade had to offer. Once we got the ADD under control and found ways to encourage him from not becoming distracted we started out the school year with a bang! I was super excited for him since this is the year a kid really branches out and make lots of friends. Friends that stay with a person through high school.

What I was not expecting was how HARD it would be to navigate the first year of middle school in today’s society and educational culture. Here are a few tips to help you and your child survive that first year.

Teach your child about bullying.

As excited as I was for him, I was not expecting the amount of bullying that takes place. I understand the importance of encouraging positive behavior and anti-bullying, however, it’s hard for kids to just be kids and have fun with one another. I’m pretty sure my son was called into the Deans office multiple times at the beginning of the year because he was a witness to bullying or what was thought to be bullying. I’m so appreciative of how serious bullying is taken, however, it’s hard explaining to your child when what they witnessed they didn’t realize was bullying.

Understand that teachers have bad days too.

I think teachers are the most underpaid job title. They help mold our children into who they are and will become. Having a teacher who really loves his/her job is like winning the lottery. You know they will try their hardest to teach the best they can so that ALL their students do well and understand the concepts. Unfortunately, there are times you get teachers who may be burnt out and exhausted. In this case, they may be short-tempered or lack the caring side of being a teacher. This is in no way an attack on teachers. I appreciate teachers 100%, but what I wasn’t expecting was explaining to my son why he may feel like a teacher doesn’t like him. It’s not because of him, it’s because they may have had a bad day, or are burnt out. They need breaks too and a lot is expected of teachers.

Communicate and advocate on behalf of your child — even if the teacher is not good at communicating.

I am huge on communication. I think communication is key to having all your relationships be successful. I was not expecting the lack of communication at the school. This is between teachers and students, parents and teachers, administration and teachers, and even volunteer opportunities for parents. The school uses a program called Schoology which would be fantastic if ALL of the teachers utilized it. At the beginning of the school year, they talk about being a team between the parents and the teachers so that your student succeeds, however the lack of communication from the teachers makes it difficult to be a team.

Start saving up for school supplies now.

I was not expecting the amount of school supplies we would be expected to purchase. I understand teachers need materials to teach, however, I do not feel like my son needs to hold onto a six-pack of dry erase markers in his locker for when he runs out. Since when did schools stop using pencil sharpeners and we have to provide one? I easily feel that the list is significantly more than what they actually need and can be downsized. I would be happy to supply more supplies for him after winter break should he need more, instead of buying so much at once and having stuff leftover … because right now we still have four unopened packs of dry erase markers.

Take time to listen to your child before making assumptions.

My son came home with something that they call a check. This can be given out for severe things or mild things. His was because someone thought he was talking when he shouldn’t be. Trust me, my son is a talker so I just assumed he was at fault and I was ready to lay into him right after I saw the email come through. He insisted it wasn’t him talking and after talking with him I believed him. I explained that if he didn’t believe he deserved a check then he needed to advocate and stand up for himself. And so he did. I didn’t expect to be the parent that assumed their child did wrong.

Middle School

Do you have any tips for surviving the first year of middle school? Please share!