Middle School: 11-14
The transition from elementary school to middle school is drastic – kids now may change classrooms/teachers for each subject. Grades are becoming more important and they have to be more independent. How can parents help?
The following suggestions will help you transition your child from elementary school to middle school:
- Prepare your child for the transition to middle school. Talk about what they can expect and how to handle different situations.
- Volunteer at their school – in the classroom, the guidance office, front office, etc. Knowing you are there some of the time will make your child feel secure and you more involved in his/her learning process.
- Be sure your child knows you are supportive of him/her, but do not too protective. Let them make mistakes and problem-solve on their own, but be an available safety net.
Homework is going to get pretty intense when going from elementary to middle school and it will probably be double by the time they get to eight grade. Here’s how parents can help:
- Designate a specific area for homework to be done.
- Agree on a regular time to complete homework, either by the clock or before video games, etc.
- Do not complete homework for your child. If your child seems to need a lot of help, talk to his/her teacher about other ways you can help.
- Even if your child does not have homework on a certain night, try to have them read a book, etc. in order to keep a routine.
- Volunteer in your child’s classroom so you can get a feel for what they are learning, the teacher’s instruction style and what homework assignments to look out for.
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Navigating the social politics of middle school can be daunting – even for adults! Your child can make it through, but kids can be brutal, especially at this age. Here are some ideas about how you can nurture your child’s friendships:
- Meet your child’s friends and their parents or caregivers.
- Invite the friends over to hang out, but be sure to have an established set of house rules.
- Find out what rules are set at your child’s friends house so you can talk about them with your child.
- Get your child involved in extracurricular activities to expose him/her to more friend-making opportunities, increase self esteem and encourage social behaviors.
- If a problem arises with a friend, talk to your child about why they think it happened and what they can do to solve it.
- If you suspect your child might be bullied or is bullying others, speak to his/her teacher or principal immediately.
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It is important for parents to encourage health eating habits at meals and snacks by providing a diverse combination of fruits, vegetables, protein (beans, meat), dairy (milk, cheese) and starches (bread, pasta). For healthy snack and meal recipe ideas based on Florida produce, view the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Extreme Cuisine cookbook.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps jump-start digestion and metabolism.
- Try to make sure his/her school lunches also are healthy. Consider packing meat and cheese sandwiches, cheese sticks, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, crackers, etc. Also be sure to limit juices and soft drinks and encourage water and milk.
- Encourage healthy after-school snacks like fruit, veggies and low-fat dip, graham crackers and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, etc.
- Setting a good example yourself will make it easier to encourage and establish good, healthy eating habits.
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Children need at least one hour of exercise a day. With busy schedules, you would think it difficult for families to find the time to fit in fitness, but it is easier than you would think!
- Turn off the TV: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 2 and up (including parents!) viewing no more than one-two hours of “quality” TV. This means educational, non-violent programming.
- Get going: Encourage your child to get involved in active organized extracurricular activities like sports and dance. The costs of lessons, games, uniforms, costumes, etc. can be difficult for every family’s budget, so look for free and reduced-cost programs in your area.
- Start training: At this age, children may become more active in extracurricular sports. In order to fast-track their progress, they might like to run, jog, swim, skate or participate in other activities to increase their endurance.
- Go outside: Going for a walk, planting in the garden, playing on the playground, swimming in the pool, playing sports and games – all of these activities are great ways to get in exercise.
- Go on a trip: Try family outings and trips that encourage fun exercise, such as canoeing or hiking at a Florida State Park – many park visits and activities are free!
- Set an example: By seeing YOU exercise, physical fitness becomes a way of life for your child. Set the example to create a healthy habit.
If your child gets involved in sports, be sure they are safe:
- Depending on the sport, be sure your child has the correct protective gear. Used equipment stores are great places to get low-cost gear, but be sure it is safe – items like helmets should not be used again after even one collision.
- Wear a mouthguard for contact sports. There are three types of mouthguards: Ready-made (stock), mouth-formed (boil-and-bite), and custom (made by a dentist).
- Be sure your child warms up and stretches. They may not look like it but even athletes like professional football players are very flexible, reducing their risk of injury.
- Do not to fall into the cycle of repetitive sports injuries. Let your child rest immediately after a painful injury occurs. Also, give your child a two-month break each year from their specific sport.
- Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
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