Updated: Sep 1
"I'd love to be in middle school again!" said no one...ever.
The reality is that I've always felt bad for 6th graders. They are thrown into a chaotic new world and expected to just get it and thrive. Middle school is a novel and sometimes scary landscape where kids are held to extremely high expectations with extremely low levels of support in school. After a few years of sink or swim, they have to do it all over again when transitioning into high school.
Now, here at The Learning Room we are all for holding students to high expectations. We want students to advocate for themselves and be successful in all stages of their education however there is a pattern happening that hinders student success. When kids are given these exceptionally high expectations and little to no support they cannot possibly know how to navigate this successfully. This leads to student, teacher and parent frustration which if left unchecked can make kids fall behind and dislike learning.
So as a parent what do you do? How can you help?
Before you can help, you have to figure out what your child needs help with. Reflect on what skills your child does or doesn't have. Be honest, that is the best way to ensure you're helping!
After evaluating these aspects, make a plan to support your child. Don't over-complicate this. Think carefully about how you support yourself in these areas (making lists, keeping an updated calendar, etc.) and how you can help your child embed those skills into their own life. You doing this work may feel counter-intuitive if the goal is to help your child be more independent. You may not want to 'coddle' or 'baby' your child too much or make your child 'complacent' or 'lazy' however supporting your child while they develop these skills will make them more independent and self-sufficient as their brain continues to develop and grow.
On the topic of laziness...
What may present itself as a child being 'lazy' may not be what you think it is. Kids don't complete tasks for a variety of reasons, many that aren't them being lazy. They may not know how complete the task, be worried about doing it correctly or be overwhelmed and not know where to begin. Kids, even middle schoolers, can't always communicate those issues, so it presents itself as laziness. Truthfully, what we often call 'laziness' stems from all kinds of underlying issues and serves as further proof that your child, regardless of their age, needs some kind of support to complete that specific task.
In teaching there is saying, "you have to go slow to go fast". Meaning that in the beginning, you have to take small baby steps (and even backwards steps) to help kids become confident in a skill. In the long run, they'll be able to run with that skill and be very successful if they have a solid foundation laid down. So, even if giving them extra supports now feels like a step backwards in their independence just know that going the extra mile now will ensure your child has the skills they. need as they continue through school and life.
The first thing you need to implement is a system to help your child stay organized. Organization will encompass keeping track of their schedule, tasks, belongings and more. The key to establishing a system that works is to model how to use these tools and check in frequently about what is working and what needs to be swapped or switched. If you're unsure where to start, use our free planner and organizational system. You can download it here.
You can implement this organizational system to help your child plan out tasks and keep track of their schedule, to-dos and more for the day, week or month. While our planner has many different pages, some of the most important to use with your child will be the weekly planner and daily planner. These will help your child learn how to plan and mange their tasks and time.
Whether it is our planner, a calendar, app or other system the key to success is teaching your child how to use the tool. Tools are useless if we don't learn how to use them effectively. Planning, scheduling and task management are often internal processes for adults therefore kids don't learn how to develop these skills the way they might learn how to tie their shoes, walk or speak. Clear and consistent modeling is a must.
Click here to listen to Jessica discuss how to get your student organized on The Single Parenting Reset Show.
The next hurdle to consider is looking at your teen is communicating (or not communicating) with their teachers. Oftentimes when students get into middle school, they are expected to keep track and communicate their needs and questions with all of their teachers. This is likely the first time they are doing this and need to be taught how to!
In middle school, students often transition from one teacher to multiple teachers across their subject areas. Parents can get overwhelmed by having so many teachers to keep track of and communicate with. If that is the case, however, imagine how your child feels. If it is hard for us adults to keep up with communications across multiple classes, it must feel impossible to a child who is doing this for the first time. Your teen has little to no experience navigating this type of situation and communication so they need support during this transitional time.
This level of support is not what you will be doing forever - you are providing support to teach your children how to navigate all these things on their own. By committing to this for a window of time, you will be able to slowly decrease the support they need.
E-mail is a fantastic way to teach teens how to communicate with their teachers for several reasons.
Being able to craft and send a concise, well-written email is a life skill that your child will use in high school, college and beyond. The earlier they start practicing the better!
Emails show a record of correspondence if there is an issue or if students need to go back and re-read information sent via email.
While parents can support their kids when they're writing emails, emails will come from the student's account which builds independence and life skills.
Parents can increase the independence of their children with email features like templates and schedule send so they don't need you as frequently.