School is coming up soon, whether you are ready or not. If you have an upcoming middle schooler, both you and your child naturally have fears as a new school year starts. Common fears include:
- Starting at a new middle school where many elementary schools come together.
- Being with older children as an incoming sixth or seventh grader.Learning how to undo a lock on a locker.
- Getting to class on time.
- Being with multiple teachers
- Wondering if teachers will connect with your child.
- Unresolved relationships from last year’s school year.
- Peer pressure
- Teen drama
- Harder subjects
- Making sports teams
- Fill in the blank________.
Perhaps no other grade levels brings this amount of apprehension. How do you prepare your middle schooler (and you) for a new school year? Here are 5 tips to ease anxiety.
1. Embrace the new school year as a new opportunity. If your teen is starting at a new school where several elementary schools combine, use this as an opportunity for your child to make new friends. If they had a hard time in elementary school because they didn’t have friends with similar interests, encourage them to seek out new friends with skills and interests similar to theirs.
Also, if your child was stereotyped, labeled, or developed a bad reputation in elementary school, use this as an opportunity for a fresh start with new kids, new teachers, and a different perspective on how they see themselves. Allow them to redefine who they want to be. If your child is returning to middle school, encourage them to start with a new perspective on the school year, rather than focusing on past drama.
2. Empower your middle schoolers to see this stage as exciting—because it is! A child’s identity forms during early adolescence. It’s when their interests awaken. They begin pulling away from parents. Instead of focusing on the negative side of middle school (hormones, mood swings, etc.), help your teen explore their interests and strengthen their gifts. Get them involved in new activities, clubs, or sports. Explore career websites for their grade level. Give them freedom in certain areas to strengthen their identity in safe and healthy ways.
3. Equip them to face their anxieties and fears. A child’s feelings are real. Don’t discount their fears. Instead, discuss their anxieties. Rehearse possible scenarios, preparing them to know what to do if their fears materialize. The office staff of most schools are working a few weeks before school starts—make an appointment with a school counselor, or talk with the office staff to see if your child can visit before the first day of school. If your child has chronic anxiety, consult a professional counselor or your family doctor.
4. Examine your own attitudes about your child being in middle school. Are you fearful, anxious, or worried? Give those fears to God. Ask Him for assistance dealing with each one. If your child senses your fears and worry, it accentuates their anxieties.
5. Pray, be in God’s word, and seek Him. As a Christian parent, your relationship with God is the greatest tool you have for parenting a middle schooler. He’ll guide you with each situation. One thing I do on the evening before school is to pray Joshua 1 with each child. It’s comforting and empowering for a child to hear they should’t be afraid, that God is with them, and they have courage to withstand the big unknowns ahead.
What about you? How can you help your middle schooler—and yourself—prepare for a new school year?