My oldest is headed to 7th grade next week. Boy what a difference from last year! We just picked up his schedule and got his locker and it was all no big deal. 6th grade was not like that at all! Here are some things we did (and I wish we did) to make the transition from elementary to middle school as smooth as possible.
Do NOT panic. Your child will feed off your concerns. Speak positively about how middle school is going to be different but awesome, and that you’re confident your child will thrive there after they get used to a few things. Even if you don’t believe this you need to go with it for their sake. Talk about your anxieties and concerns with other adults when your child isn’t present.
Go to school over the summer once they had a schedule and locker. Go as many times as it takes for them to feel comfortable opening their locker. Get them to every Open House and New Student event the school holds. There are teachers and administrators in the schools, and you are welcome to walk around. I think it took us three visits for my son to feel confident about his ability to open his locker. Let them determine when they are ready.
Make them a small version of their schedule and locker combination they can carry in their pocket, then take a picture with their phone so they have a backup copy. Explain to them that they don’t need to know the whole thing, just focus on what’s next. Walk in the door, go to your locker, put stuff away, get what you need and go to your first class. One class at a time.
If your child is really anxious practice asking for help. Make sure they have the words to use to ask a teacher to help them. Also have them practice talking to adults by encouraging them to make eye contact and answer questions from other adults you come across at church, the grocery store, etc. My kids used to think shaking hands was fun and a little silly, but since they practiced it’s turned into no big deal and I just watched my son walk straight up to his new English teacher and shake her hand! Amazing.
Just like elementary school, join the PTA! There are not as many volunteer opportunities, but there are still ways to help and things to know and these people can help.
Be friendly with the kids who have lockers near you, your’e stuck with them for a whole year. Don’t get mad or say mean things if they do something you don’t like, just roll with it. You don’t have to be friends with them, but be nice. No one needs enemies.
Smile and say hi to kids you don’t know. There will be a lot of them, and they are just as confused and lost as you are. You’re going to meet a lot of new people and make new friends, and that’s a good thing.
If you need help, ask a teacher. No one expects you to have it all figured out. They want to help. They see confused and anxious kids every single year, so this is nothing new to them. Do you best to stay calm and be brave if things don’t go well. If you’re scared, remember that everyone else is too, even if they look like they’re fine. Some people are better at faking it than others!
What other advice do you have?