The Thrills and Chills of Starting Middle School

Making the trek up the hill to the Upper School may sound like an easy transition – same school, different building. But going from elementary school to middle school is a bigger step than you may have realized. Your student may be excited, or scared, or maybe a little of both. But chances are, she feels simultaneously big and small. She’s no longer the little kid, easily babied and taken care of in elementary school. But at the same time, this new adventure brings a lot of unknowns and she becomes the little fish in the big pond, once again. Here are some tips to help prepare her for this exciting (or scary) new world:

Sleep: While it becomes increasingly harder for tweens and teens to fall asleep early, 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep per night is the recommended amount for optimal learning and health. Don’t blame your student for wanting to stay up late. Experts say that the circadian rhythm temporarily resents itself during those years, telling them to fall asleep later and wake up later. This might be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens and adults. This makes it harder to fall asleep early. Try introducing some melatonin inducing foods into your child’s diet and eat earlier in the evening. Pineapples, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, rice, tomatoes and barley are all healthy foods that will help boost that sleep-inducing hormone. Steven Coward, ND, also suggests limiting proteins after early evening. If your child must have a snack or meal later in the evening, make it a little more carb-heavy.

Breakfast: According to WebMD, studies show that kids who skip breakfast are tardy and absent from school more often than children who eat breakfast on a regular basis. Make sure your student starts the day with a healthy meal that has lots of brain-boosting nutrients, such as fresh or frozen berries, especially blueberries or black currants, nuts, eggs and Greek yogurt. Whip up a smoothie to go or make egg cups in advance in a muffin pan. Pinterest has a lot of great ideas. When you do a little prep work in advance, it’s easy to make something your student can grab and eat on the run.

Organization: Help your student figure out what organization system works best for her. That may be or providing her with a daily planning sheet where she writes down all of her assignments for each class – she can keep it in the front of her notebook.  Or your child may work better with a daily planner. Either way, you should check this daily until you are confident it has become a habit for your student. Even then, check it periodically, just to make sure. Help her create a folder for current assignments, worksheets and study guides that is brought home EVERY DAY. At home, post a large calendar where assignment due dates can be clearly seen. Create a homework center and stock it full of school supplies.

Schedule: This is probably the most trying part of the tween and teen years. With family members going in so many different directions, it becomes increasingly difficult to carve out time for extra curriculars, study, a healthy dinner, and relaxation (yes, this is still important). Try limiting after school activities, at least the first semester your student is in middle school. I promise, she will not ruin her career as a prima ballerina from taking one semester off from ballet lessons. Teaching your child to set up a manageable schedule now is preparing her for life, while giving both of you the sanity you need. Try 30 minutes of down time immediately after school or practice (including a healthy snack), then homework time, dinner with the family (even if only half of you are there, sit down together), finish any lingering homework after dinner, then as much down time with the family as you can muster before bed. Even though that melatonin may not have kicked in, send your student to bed by 9 p.m. to read or sleep. It will help her body wind down and prepare for a good night’s rest.

Middle school bring a lot of changes, but if you work together to help your student become organized and maintain a reasonable schedule, the transition should be smooth for you both.


As we head towards Thanksgiving Day, does it seem strange to anyone else but me that the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S. is the day after
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