Middle school years

Middle school is a time when many children gain a sense of independence, but they are still young and require a lot of supervision and guidance. Peer groups are increasingly important at this age. And it’s a time when extracurricular interests really begin to blossom.

Frequent health issues include:

  • Tiredness.
  • Obesity.
  • Asthma.
  • Food allergies.
  • Experimenting with tobacco, drugs, alcohol and the opposite sex.

How to help your child succeed in school:

  • Be aware of peer pressure. Many children who seem “too young” are already experimenting with cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and sex. Children at this age are finding their social niche, which means they are more likely to try things just to fit in with their peers. Know your child’s schedule in detail: where they are, who they’re with, what they’re doing and when they’ll be back. Talk frequently about your expectations and reasons for wanting your child to make good decisions.
  • Offer a nutritious breakfast. Studies show that kids who skip the most important meal of the day don’t learn as well.
  • Encourage sleep. A minimum of eight hours a day is required, but 9 to 10 hours is preferred during this time of rapid physical and emotional growth and development.
  • Volunteer at school, if you can. Volunteer at the school library, or talk with teachers or the principal about other projects. Your child will see and appreciate that you care enough to give your time to his school. For working parents, there are often helpful tasks you can do in the evening at home. Ask your child’s teacher how you can get involved.
  • Ask questions. Know what’s happening in his classes, what projects are due and when, and how he’s getting along with friends. This shows that you care, teaches your child to have pride in her work, and sets the stage for her developing study habits and time-management skills.
  • Support homework time. Create a quiet, well-lit spot that encourages homework to happen. Be available, so that your child feels your support. Help your child establish a routine for getting homework done, put away, and turned in on time.
  • Beware of too many extracurricular activities. We see a lot of burned out kids and parents who spend all day, every day juggling a variety of sports, music, dance and clubs. Consider a rule that allows him to choose one or two extracurricular activities at a time. Even that will feel like a lot, especially if you have multiple kids.
  • Keep tabs on Internet use. Your child can easily get in over his head in cyberspace. Parent filters can help, but you should also review his user history regularly. Also, keep the computer within eyeshot of your main living space.
  • Teach your child proper cell phone use. If you give your teen a cell phone, educate him about inappropriate use to avoid “cyber-bullying.” Know that cell phones with Internet capabilities do not have parent filters.
  • Get to know your child’s friends and their families. Ask yourself: Do the families he spends time with share our safety and good behavior choices?
  • Celebrate your child’s good work. Display his work, attend school programs, and frequently compliment him.
  • Make your child’s school aware of any medical conditions. If your child has a medical condition, be sure to talk to the school nurse and front office staff. If he needs emergency medications nearby, provide an up-to-date prescription with clear, written instructions. Then show them how and when to administer the medication in an emergency. Too often, children do not have medication at school when they need it, or school staff waits too long to give it. In an emergency, minutes matter.

For additional information, see teen issues for girls or teen issues for boys.

School matters

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