Moving to the Middle: Preparing Your Child for the Middle School Experience: Part 1

This picture was taken the morning of her first day of middle school.  This is my middle daughter.  She was so excited and anxious to embark on this new chapter in her life.  The idea of middle school made her feel a little more grown up, mature.  Should couldn’t wait for what she thought would be a good adventure.  It turned out to be an awful experience and a frightening time in our family.

The good feeling lasted for about a week.  Yeah, one week.  My daughter can be described as quirky and cheerful and she was always out of step with the average student at her school.  Her personality stuck out like a sore thumb, and because of that she was a target for bullying.

I felt horrible as a parent.  My oldest daughter did not have the same troubles transitioning to middle school so I didn’t anticipate what happened to my middle daughter.  I researched other options but they were either filled or worse than the current situation.  I did the best I could to help her get through school; volunteered, meet with teacher and other parents and talked to my daughter constantly.  I became a very strong presence in the school and let the principal know what my concerns were.  That helped some, but her tormentors just became more creative with ways to harass my child.

Her 6th and 7th grade years were horrible.  My daughter had become increasingly withdrawn and depressed.  I was in the process of seeking professional help, when a friend of mine told me about a program at a local church.  The church had many youth programs and we were interested in the performing arts academy.  I looked into the program and signed her up immediately.  She loves drama and this was an opportunity for her to have fun and meet a different group of peers.  I wanted to get her into something positive, where she would be accepted and respected.

Well we got more that I could have ever imagined.  This program gave her a real desire to go into acting.  It gave her confidence and confidants.  She met other children like herself and now had something to look forward to outside of the hell she was living in school.

By eighth grade, there was a new principal and a change in school staff.  The new principal set a new tone for the school and enforced a no tolerance policy for bullying.  Students who were chronic problems and offenders began disappearing.  I keep my presence in the school and worked with staff to continue my support.  My daughter blossomed that year.  I’m tearing up just thinking about it.  She became a leader in the school and got some new friends. There were still some problems with  teasing, but it didn’t have the same effect.  She learned not to absorb that negativity.

Today she is an 11th grader at a Performing Arts High School and loving it.  She is definitely in her element.  Life is completely different and she is doing very well.  In hindsight, I thought of resources that may have been helpful for my daughter prior to entering middle school.  I have a ten year old currently in the fourth grade and I have to begin preparing for her.  Here are some ideas I came up with to help my youngest get ready for middle school:

Mentoring- My girls have been participating in a local girls group that promotes self esteem, relationship building, positive peer interactions, social and moral values.  One on one mentors are also a really good idea. It’s good to have positive roles models your child can confide in.  Sometimes children won’t disclose information to their parents and they need a safe, acceptable and healthy alternative.

Martial Arts- I want my child to be in a position to drop kick another kid that is tormenting her.  That was my initial thought.  However, martial arts is not only about self defense but building character and confidence.  It  teaches skills on how to avoid and handle yourself in adverse situations.

Sports, Hobbies and other interests- Sports are a good esteem and confidence builder.  Children feel good when they practice different skills and become competent at something.  Feeling good, strong and confident are good to have when dealing with difficult people.

Shadowing/Visiting New School- I did this before my middle daughter entered high school.  We visited a couple different schools and she shadowed a student for day to experience the culture first hand.  I’m doing this with my youngest for middle school.  This will diminish culture shocked and she can consider how she feels about the environment.

For me it is about my younger daughter not being vulnerable to attacks.  I know she will experience hardships, but I want to give her strategies and build a fort inside her that will not allow her to internalize the negativity.  It is a difficult time for parents and children.  We have to teach our kids to treat others with respect and dignity.  And when they run into people who can’t, we give our children everything we can to defend their minds and bodies.

I will do another post about preparing for academic success, because that is another issue.


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