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Moving On Up


Help your child navigate the early days of middle school and high school by providing emotional support

Transitions can be emotionally challenging at any stage of life. But few are as daunting or overwhelming as starting middle school or high school. This is not only a period of tremendous change, but it typically takes place during a time of rapid developmental growth. Add these factors together, and it’s no wonder that one in three children cite the transition to middle school or high school as being difficult.

As a parent or caregiver, you are in a unique position to help make this transition a smooth one. You can play a key role in the development of your child’s emotional well being simply by making yourself aware of the challenges he or she faces and taking the necessary steps to provide support when needed.

A Time of Change

Middle school and high school introduce numerous changes in routine and environment, and children are expected to adapt quickly. Children typically form new relationships with teachers and friends while older, more familiar peer groups are changing.

At the same time, these children face added responsibilities, from an increased academic workload to navigating a new building and adjusting to time management requirements. Together these changes can create high levels of anxiety and a sense of feeling overwhelmed.

To add to the chaos, many children are going through puberty at this time. Their bodies may be undergoing drastic physical changes while they face the added daily challenges of insecurity, self-consciousness and emotional ups and downs.

How You Can Help

To begin, you can help your adolescent transition to middle school or high school by providing both emotional and practical support. But here are some practical ways to help ensure a smooth transition for your child:

  • Establish a regular morning routine (and bedtime) so your child is ready and rested when the school day begins.
  • Talk with your child about appearance, which can be an even more stressful issue than homework. Have a conversation about what your child will wear to school and discuss your budget for buying new clothes and shoes. You don’t have to break the bank, but let your child know that you understand how appearance affects confidence levels.
  • Make it clear that the relationship between you and your child will remain consistent. You can do this best by making yourself available to discuss his or her anxieties related to academics, fitting in socially or anything else that might arise.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s new school and the academic expectations so you can answer questions along the way.

The early days of middle school and high school can be emotionally, socially and academically challenging for your child—and for you. The more you know about the challenges your child faces, the better prepared you are to provide support and guidance when needed.

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth StreetColumbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.