Fearful about the Middle School Transition? Help is here … Part One

Are you freaking out about your child’s transition into Middle School?

It’s time to become familiar with the 3 Biggest Freak Out Factors and the corresponding Survival Guide so you and your student don’t get overwhelmed.

In this three-part series, I’m addressing the 3 Biggest Freak Out Factors associated with making the transition into Middle School.

  • The Fear Factor – Strike a Balance
  • The Friend Drama – Navigate the Turbulence
  • The Funny Business –  Be Prepared

Let’s dive into the first Freak-Out Factor, The Fear Factor because if your student has visited his / her new middle school or made course selections, chances are, the “what-if” questions are popping up and you need to figure out how to Strike a Balance using this Survival Guide.

In my previous article, Freaking Out about Transitioning into Middle School? Help is on the Way …

I identified a few of the top fears reported by 5th graders (and their parents) as they embark on this new adventure:

  • Navigating the hallway / passing periods
  • Managing a locker / combination
  • Blending new and old friendships
  • Where to sit at lunch
  • Remembering all the new rules
  • Handling an increased workload

Transitioning into Middle School can feel like the doors of adolescence have swung wide open and you and your student are trying to navigate without a GPS.

Rather than allowing the fears to ruminate and turn into bigger issues, try this Survival Guide:

The First Step – Listen and Validate

  • identify / label the fears
  • validate thoughts / feelings

Even if your student’s fears sound unreasonable and exaggerated, continue to listen without comment.

It’s important to establish an emotional vocabulary and recognize the connection between thoughts and feelings.

The Second Step – Make a Plan

As the parent, you’ll benefit from taking an exploratory approach to your Plan by asking your student a few open-ended questions: (hint – encourage your student to answer the questions without your input)

  • “What do you have control over in this situation?”
  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “What options do you have to handle this concern?”

Try to keep the conversation going with supportive and curious reply’s like:

  • “I hear what you’re saying”
  • “Yep, that’s a lot to think about”
  • “Hummm, what else might help?”
  • “Oh, say more about that idea”

Additional Tips –

Sometimes it’s hard to know if your student wants to have a conversation or simply needs you to listen.

It can be useful to ask:

  • “Would like me to just listen?”
  • “Is it helpful to share my ideas on that issue?”
  • “It sounds like you may feel like you’re alone in this, I’m here to support you, so what can I do to help?”

Be patient, you’re planting the seeds right now.

Your student may need some time to process these questions and may not come up with a plan right away.

This can be an on-going conversation as new ideas and possibilities arise.

And remember, when you acknowledge your student’s feelings, you’ll be removing the mystery and shame that are often associated with fear.

You’ll both recognize that he/she has the ability to:

  • Move through difficult emotions
  • Identify where support is needed
  • Prevent undesirable behavior

Lastly, I believe that having a self-affirming mantra can be a very effective calming tool ~ for everyone!

When you’re feeling vulnerable, repeat your mantra as many times as necessary until you feel a sense of calm and have time to think clearly.

The good news is ~ you’ll see that with a bit of work, you and your student will learn how to strike a balance.

Each situation is unique … what’s your best strategy?


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Posted in: Parenting Tips, Your Teen’s Education