There are a lot of changes for kids starting middle school—moving between classes, having a locker and combination, eighth-graders who are often much bigger, changing bodies, and more. Getting Smart published an article to help families prepare for middle school by identifying four keys to success.

  1. Middle schoolers need adults to teach them how the world works, but also be conscious of how their brain is functioning. Teenage brains are wired for learning, but the frontal cortex is not well connected yet. The frontal cortex, as noted in Illinois PTA’s report on young adults involved in the justice system, doesn’t get fully connected until the mid-20s. This important part of the brain helps to identify risks, make critical judgements, react rationally, as well as plan for the future and motivate ourselves. It is important for adults to begin conversations at this age to help them understand the role their actions today might have for their future, whether that is choices of friends, things they do, or pictures they post online.
  2. Middle schoolers need to be held to high expectations, but be allowed to make (harmless) mistakes. High expectations for our children are important, but we need to be sure that we aren’t focusing on perfection, but effort. Learning to work hard, do your best, and learn from your mistakes are critical parts of developing a growth mindset.
  3. Middle schoolers need support in thinking about the future, but also need to be encouraged to embrace the present. Coupled with the first two points, we need to help our kids think about what they want to do in life, how to set goals, and how to plan to accomplish those goals.
  4. Middle schoolers need parents to be involved, and they need to take ownership of their learning. Middle school is the age when kids start to pull away from their parents and begin to develop some independence. As adults, we need to support this critical development, if for no other reason than we don’t want them playing video games in our basement when they’re 30. But we still need to be involved with their lives because we know they won’t always make good choices. It’s also a time for us to encourage our kids to try new things and to discover what activities and ideas really excite their passion.

Check out the full article for more on these four keys to middle school success.

Photo © 2007 by GSCSNJ under Creative Commons license.