Most children entering middle school are facing major changes as they get ready for back to school. Lockers, fashion, the opposite sex, academics … all of these things can stress your child and make that transition to middle school harder. As a parent, we want to help our children make the transition as seamless as possible.

Here are some ways to help.

Lockers

My friend tells me she still remembers nightmares of forgetting her locker combination in middle school. It’s a valid concern, but one that’s easily managed. Get your child’s lock a few days before school and let them practice unlocking it until they are comfortable with the combination. Write the combination down and keep it in your wallet so they can call you if they forget. Some schools supply their own locks and your child will have to learn the combination that’s already set on the lock they’re given. That’s ok – make sure you have that combination in your wallet as well and here are some tricks for your child to remember it.

Fashion

The battle over school clothes can be of epic proportions. You will want your child to dress demurely. Unless uniforms are worn at your middle school, I can almost guarantee your kids will want to wear something you’d rather them not. My advice: Learn the school’s dress code. If your children’s choices fall within the dress code, try to let them win the school clothes battle. If you are abiding by the dress code, your daughter won’t be baring herself in places she shouldn’t, and your son’s clothing will be respectful and his pants will be above his hips!

Also, if you can afford it, buy one of the nice things your child wants. Not the whole wardrobe, just one or two things. Everyone wore Guess jeans when I was in school. My parents told me they were just too expensive. Those were the only thing I really wanted. We worked out a deal: I’d work off the money to pay half of what they cost, and my parents would pay the rest. Consider babysitting, dog-walking, or yard care for your middle-schooler if they need to earn money to pay for things they love. You’ll be teaching fiscal responsibility and your kids will value those jeans more if they’ve worked hard for them too!

Opposite Sex

This is where group activities come in. Our kids are getting more involved with the opposite sex at an earlier age. There are many extracurricular activities in middle school. Choices range from chess club to tennis to yearbook and beyond. Encourage your child to explore groups that sound interesting, even if your child is a little intimidated at first. That’s natural, but after they get involved, they’ll be more comfortable and will be around the opposite sex in an appropriate way – a group way. Your responsibility as a parent? Make sure you’re there EARLY to pick up your child (they should not be left to ‘hang out’ afterwards). This is when boys and girls have time to wander off.

Some advice for parents of girls – boys will tease them more in middle school than ever. It’s the way adolescent boys know to relate to girls.Please do not tell your child to ‘ignore it and it will go away’. That doesn’t work. Listen to her and encourage her to tell you everything she wants you to know. Continue that dialogue. Explain that boys don’t mean to hurt her (unless they really ARE bullying, and then you have an entirely different issue to address) but that that’s really the only way they know to relate to girls right now. Girls are becoming more aggressive when it comes to social relationships with boys and if you are opposed to your child calling, texting, or emailing boys, now is the time to talk with your daughter.

Parents of boys, things have changed a LOT since we were growing up. Girls are more aggressive socially. If you are opposed to that behavior, you are going to have to step up to the plate and tell the girls who call that you will take a message and let Johnny know they called. Then, depending on your rules, he can decide whether to call her back or not. I have a 10 year old boy, and I do not want girls calling or texting him.

Academics

Middle school academics do ramp up in difficulty and in the speed with which the teacher covers material. Students don’t enjoy the same close relationship that they had with their elementary school teachers. If your kid is having trouble, catch it early and get help. Students are required to be more organized and self-sufficient than ever before, and it will take time to get to that point, but they’ll get there.

It’s a new year! Time for your excited child to get back to school and their old friends, make new ones, and crack open those textbooks and notebooks! Good luck. I wish you a fun, easy transition into middle school!