Primary to Middle School


Student comments and behaviors give insight into their concerns as they move to a new school. Students when asked about their concerns in facing a school transition mentioned the following worries: (1) getting to class on time, (2) finding lockers, (3) keeping up with “materials,” (4) finding lunchrooms and bathrooms, (5) getting on the right bus to go home, (6) getting through the crowded halls, and (7) remembering which class to go to next. In addition to these concerns, other studies include personal safety (aggressive and violent behaviors of other students) as a prominent concern of students.

Teachers have also listed specific challenges to students making the transition from a sixth-grade elementary to a middle level school: (1) changing classes; (2) reduced parent involvement; (3) more teachers; (4) no recess, no free time; (5) new grading standards and procedures; (6) more peer pressure; (7) developmental differences between boys and girls; (8) cliquishness; (9) fear of new, larger, more impersonal school; (10) accepting more responsibility for their own actions; (11) dealing with older children; (12) merging with students from five elementary schools; (13) unrealistic parental expectations; (14) lack of experience in dealing with extracurricular activities; (15) unfamiliarity with student lockers; (16) following the school schedule; (17) longer-range assignments; (18) coping with adolescent physical development; and, for some, (19) social immaturity; and (20) a lack of basic skills.

This publication outlines the importance for transition planning in middle school and offers and outlines the DISCOVERY process of exploring interest and possible vocational paths.

How to prepare your child for Middle School?

  • Talk about the upside of middle school – The idea of moving up to middle school can be scary for some children. But it’s important that tweens understand that middle school offers many benefits and opportunities. Talk to your tween about all the organizations and clubs he’ll be able to join, as well as the independence that comes with being a preteen. Point out other opportunities your child’s school offers to students, and encourage him to become involved right away, when everyone in his class is just as new to the school as he is
  • Address your child’s fears about middle school – Many tweens may worry about finding their classes, opening their lockers, or dressing for gym class. Address your child’s fears one by one, and point out that everyone in his class is new to the school and the school rules. Also, point out that many of his fears will be addressed at an open house or school orientation. In the meantime, spend a little time showing your tween how to use a locker combination and offer tips on getting to his classes on time.
  • Prepare your tweens for changes – Many changes take place during the tween years and your child probably has questions or concerns about all of them. Discuss some of the changes your tween will likely encounter, and role-play how to deal with some of the more difficult challenges. For example, your tween will likely encounter new school rules when he begins middle school. What should he do if he breaks one of them accidentally? How should he react? Be sure you also go over other changes that your tween is likely to encounter in the middle school years, changes such as peer pressure, increased homework, making new friends, getting involved in clubs or activities, and increased responsibilities at home

  • Take a tour of the middle school – Touring your child’s school, either together or separately, is a wonderful way to answer any questions your tween might have about middle school and ease any anxieties. A tour will show your child where he can find all the places he’ll have to go in the course of the day (gym, cafeteria, locker, etc.) and that will give him a sense of confidence on his first day.
  • Consider resources about middle school – There are a number of books on the market that can prepare your child for the adjustments of middle school. Some are very specific, written exclusively for tween boys or tween girls. It’s not a bad idea to make an investment in one of these resources. They may even help you better understand some of the challenges your child will face, and that can help you help your tween.
  • Talk about bullying – Bullying tends to peak in sixth grade and diminish slightly every year after. Most tweens will encounter bullying at some point in middle school. The best way to protect your child is to sit down and discuss behaviors common in middle school such as relational aggression. Tweens who are being bullied may try to hide the fact from family members or teachers, so be sure you know the signs of bullying in order to take quick action.
  • Help with homework – Homework during the middle school years tends to increase and parents can often find themselves unable to help with specific subjects. But parents can still do quite a lot to help their children tackle homework assignments and complete class projects. Tricks include setting up an environment that helps your tween concentrate on homework in order to complete it quickly. It’s also important to keep a family calendar in order to track special assignments and projects and keep your tween organized.
  • Consider your tween’s independence – You may want to begin giving your tween a little independence once he starts middle school. For many families it’s during the middle school years when children may be left home alone for the first time. This milestone should be approached carefully and with much consideration and preparation. Take time to transition your tween from constantly supervised to home alone, and check-up on him periodically to make sure he’s using his time alone wisely. – Tweens

For more information contact the Federation of Families of South Carolina at 866.799.0402.