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Helping Your Child Transition Into Middle School or Junior High

Topic Overview

Remember the knot in your stomach the week before you began junior high as you imagined losing your way to classes, a mass of new faces, lots of different and probably scary teachers, and mountains of homework?

Those fears live in the hearts and minds of adolescents and teens. While most adolescents make the adjustment to a different school in a matter of weeks, others may feign illness, refuse to leave the house, or have nightmares and unreasonable fears. You can help your child deal with this adjustment by listening to his or her concerns and asking if you can help. For example, you can create a map of classrooms before school starts to help relieve some anxiety.

Children who are not able to successfully manage fears and are still anxious after a couple of weeks may need professional help.

Other challenging situations may also arise as school progresses. Some of these issues may include:

  • Bullying. Bullying is a common experience for many adolescents. It often occurs on or near school property before or after school. Bullying can lead to serious difficulties for your child and interfere with social and emotional development as well as academic performance. If you suspect bullying is a problem, talk about it with your child. Seek help from your child's teacher, principal, or school counsellor. Work with your child to come up with strategies to deal with a bully, such as walking away or looking the bully in the eye and saying, "Leave me alone."
  • Time management problems. The middle school or junior high years are academically demanding for many adolescents. Some need help adjusting to more complex and varied subjects and more homework than in past years. Help your children set short- and long-term goals and prioritize tasks. Get a calendar or date book and show them how to list their responsibilities, such as homework and after-school sports. Help them organize and set aside time for each task. Keep track of how long the task takes, so you can find out whether your time allotments need to be adjusted.
  • Poor grades. Emphasize the importance of a good education. Stress that a good education requires hard work but that the effort is well worth it. Set goals for grades or school projects with your teen. Help your teen reach his or her goals, and reward success. Encourage your teen to get good grades for himself or herself, not to make you (the parent) happy.
  • Performance anxiety. Some adolescents get overanxious about every assignment, quiz, paper, and test. Some may become paralyzed by the importance they place on each and every school task. Praise your teen's efforts as long as he or she works hard, studies often, and is doing his or her best. Don't always focus on specific grades. Do not compare your child with others who may be doing better in school. Point your adolescent in directions where he or she excels, and then notice and comment on your child's successes.

If your child continually complains about school, find out what the problems are and work together to develop solutions. Your adolescent may be having difficulty concentrating because of concerns about family, friends, money problems, physical changes, or any number of worries.


Current as of: September 20, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
John Pope MD - Pediatrics