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  • Middle School
Navigating the Transition to Middle School
Kate Kennedy

Whether your child is just starting middle school or is an experienced 8th grader, one thing is certain ... middle school students experience a tremendous amount of change. Not only are their bodies growing and developing every day, but changes in hormones and emotions add more challenges during these times of their lives. Although middle schoolers are beginning to look more and act more like adults, they still need guidance and support from caring grown-ups. The relationship you have with your middle schooler is changing. For so long, you have provided guidance and protection, but now is the time for students to learn how to make positive choices and resolve their own conflicts. In middle school, students have more independence. This independence presents the perfect opportunity for students to practice making smart choices. I hope the following will prepare you for your child’s transition to middle school! Middle school students want you around, even if they don’t show it!  

Middle school students want you around, even if they don't show it!

As your child starts to pull away from you and turn to friends and others for support and advice, it can be tempting to follow their lead and allow them to “figure things out” on their own. It is important to continue to mentor and support your child even if they “push” you away. Remind them they are loved unconditionally, you have their back, and encourage them to allow their faith in God to guide them on their path. 

Middle school relationships are constantly changing.

One concern your middle schooler may have is whether or not he/she will fit with a group. When this fear comes up, my advice is to remind them that being part of a specific group isn’t as important as being kind and respectful to all. Friendships, popularity, and cliques will change all the time. Kindness, respect, and loyalty are excellent character traits, and if we encourage all of our students to show these qualities to one another, students will not only start out their middle school years on the right path, but it will make a positive impact on school culture. 

Encourage your child to get involved!

Research shows that students who feel connected to school are more likely to be academically and socially engaged and overall more successful. Pope Prep offers many opportunities for students to get involved in the school community. Please visit our website or contact me directly if you have any questions about our athletics or clubs.

Middle school students are not only adjusting to physical and emotional developmental changes but there are many academic changes that kids face when entering middle school. This change can definitely be overwhelming to students and parents. The goal is to start out the year guiding your middle schooler to develop strong study habits that will continue year after year. After a few weeks, it is important to allow your student to take ownership of their academic routine with reminders of your expectations. 

Encourage your child to use a daily planner.

Your middle schooler may have an increase in the amount of homework compared to elementary school. In order to keep up with assignments and due dates, it is a good idea for your child to use the daily planner.

Read the course syllabi.

Be sure to read the syllabus for each class your child is attending. (Many teachers at Pope Prep have posted their syllabi in Google Classroom.) This way, you are familiar with the procedures and expectations each teacher requires. It may also give you a heads-up on major projects and assignments, which can be added to the daily planner. 

Help your child get organized.

Each teacher will communicate which materials are needed for class. Be sure your child has a method to keep all loose papers in place. My recommendation is to have a folder (either paper or Google Drive, as required for each class) to keep assignments and handouts organized.

Create a homework routine.

Right from the start, encourage your child to complete homework at the same time every evening in a quiet space. In order to foster independence, gradually stop checking the homework and coach your child to actively communicate with their teacher to clarify assignments and content.  


It is so important for parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators to work together so every student is supported. This can only be accomplished through communication. Communicate with your child’s teachers, especially if you have a question or concern. The middle school years are a time when students should start learning to advocate for themselves. Encourage your child to email a teacher independently to ask a question or voice a concern.

Every middle schooler has the potential to be a successful grown-up. They want someone who believes in them and loves them the way they are. Middle schoolers want to hear, “I’m really proud of you, and I love watching you grow up.” They want you to engage in meaningful conversations that make them feel heard, valued and understood. It is important to be present at their activities and love them no matter what type of roller coaster ride this season of development can bring.

As a school family, if we all try to follow this advice, the transition into middle school can be a positive and exciting time! 

American School Counselor Association 

Gahan Bailey, Rebecca M. Giles & Sylvia E. Rogers (2015) An Investigation of the Concerns of Fifth Graders Transitioning to Middle School.

image: Kate Kennedy, MS Counselor

Kate Kennedy, Middle School Counselor 

About the Author
Kate Kennedy will be working with all students in grades 6-8. She graduated from Wittenberg University with a degree in Middle Childhood Education. After teaching middle school for a few years, she attended Xavier University, where she earned a Master of Arts in School Counseling. Mrs. Kennedy taught middle school for 11 years before joining the counseling department at Pope Prep. While she loved her time in the classroom, she is thrilled for the opportunity to work more closely with students!