How Can I Get My Middle School Child Off To A Successful Start?

By: Debra Eckerman Pitton, Ph.D. and Kelly Quinn

[Part of the "Q & A for Parents of Middle School Students" series]

Getting your child off the right start in middle school can make the rest of the experience a smashing success. When children move from elementary grades into middle level classrooms, their personal development can impact their academic work. If you maintained strong connections and a high level of involvement with your childís former elementary school and close relationships with the teachers, you may now find the combination of a new (and often larger) school setting and your adolescentís budding independence challenges the way you previously supported your child. Still, there is much you can do to make this a smooth transition.

First of all, let your child know that you have high expectations. Tell them that you want, and expect, them to do their best. Expectations should be achievable, but let your child know you believe in them and know they can do well. This can be a strong motivator and result in higher quality work by the student and a feeling of accomplishment for a job well done. Knowing that you believe in them can make all the difference to your child.

Another key issue is attendance. Every day is important because the pace is faster in middle school, and an amazing amount of learning happens in each subject. Many classes discuss certain material first that is needed to understand more complex topics later. Missing those small pieces in the puzzle can cause a great amount of confusion. Attending a new school can feel overwhelming, and anxiety can affect studentsí health. Be supportive, but do not allow the student to miss undue days of classes. Making up work is challenging and time consuming for the student as well as parents.


Bean, R. (1991). How to help your children succeed in school. New York, NY: Price Stern Sloan Publishing. Ramsey, R. (2000). 501 ways to boost your childís success in school. Lincolnwood, IL: McGraw-Hill.

Weir, K. (2002). A parentís guide to school projects, papers, and presentations. Los Angeles, CA: Mars Publishing.

Debra Eckerman Pitton, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Middle Level Education at Gustaus Adolphus College in St. Peter , MN and consults with school districts across the country on issues of mentoring and middle school education.

Kelly Quinn is a senior education major at Gustaus Adolphus College and will be graduating in May, 2005 with an elementary and middle school teaching license.

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