Transitioning from elementary to middle school brings many questions and concerns for both parents and students. Moving up to middle or junior high school can be both scary and exciting. Parents can help their preteens prepare for this monumental transition by gathering information and staying involved in their child's education.

As with any stage and rite of passage of childhood, communication between parent and child is crucial. Staying connected to your child's school and his or her friends may be an important component to parenting during the middle school years. Here are some ideas for parents to help their child's matriculation process from elementary school a success.

Visit the School

If possible, get a feel for your child's middle school before his or her enrollment. Most middle schools offer an orientation for its in-coming students and their parents. A phone call or meeting with a guidance counselor or an administrator may also be helpful and will give parents a chance to ask questions about classes and scheduling. You may even request a tour of the school with your child.

Whenever possible, registration should be completed well before the first week of school. Last minute registrations may result in poor elective class choices or even missing their first day of school.

Discuss expected changes

Parents and students should understand that middle school students have more personal responsibilities than elementary school students do. Students will learn to change classes several times a day and have as many as six different teachers. Students will be responsible to memorize their class schedule, carry their own school supplies, and maintain appropriate behavior. Consequences for poor behavior of middle school students may be more severe than younger students experience in earlier grades.

Students will have to make many adjustments to middle school. Even though most middle schools have only three grade levels, they are usually considerably larger then elementary schools, which house students of many grade levels. This means each grade may have hundreds of students from many different elementary schools. Sixth grade students may have classes with very few of the classmates they may have counted on seeing in years past. Parents can be a constructive sounding board for their kids before and after the transition. Encourage your preteen to come to you if he or she is having a problem. Your kids will need you to be a good listener more than ever before.

Talk to your child about the opportunities he or she will have to excel during the middle school years. Students will have the chance to select their elective courses and participate in various clubs and sports. Encourage your child to expand his or her personal skills and talents. Students may learn to play an instrument in the school band, play a sport or run for a student council office. Middle school is about developing socially and emotionally as well as academically. Encourage your child to make the most out of middle school.

Shopping List

Before you and your preteen head to the stores to conquer back to school shopping, gather some information first. More and more public schools are implementing uniform dress code polices. School uniforms are usually reasonably priced, available at many retail stores and are easy to wash and wear. Parents may find that they'll end up saving money on school clothes if their kids wear uniforms. You may only need to purchase four or five uniforms as oppose to many different outfits for your growing child. Check with your child's school, prior to stocking up on school clothes.

Middle and junior high schools without a uniform policy will still require a different dress code from elementary school. The tank tops and short shorts that your elementary school child wore are in violation of most secondary school dress codes. There will be other shoe, headgear, and clothes restrictions.

Something that has changed in most schools since we were in school is that most middle and junior high schools do not provide lockers for their students to visit between classes. This may require students to carry all of their belongings with them all day. A good sturdy backpack may be needed for carrying textbooks and all other school supplies. If you're going to be investing in a new one, you may want to consider purchasing a pack with wheels. Parents may want to check with the school first to see if there are any requirements or recommendations at for that particular campus.

For the first day of school, it is best to send your new sixth grader with just a notebook, a pencil and pen. Since your child will now most likely have several different teachers, it may be wise to wait to purchase specific school supplies until you learn what is required for each class. Make sure your child is prepared to take notes the first day of school. Students will have a lot to absorb the first week of school. As parents, be prepared to listen and ask questions about the transition.

Middle school can be an exciting time during the early years of adolescence. Most students handle the adjustment well and make the most of the experience. It is imperative to stay connected with your child, his or her fiends and the school. Daily communication with your child will aid the transition and will help your child achieve personal, social, emotional and academic success in middle school. Productive middle school years will prove to be an investment in your child's future.

(c) Copyright 2007 Louise Hajjar Diamond has been a school guidance counselor in Florida since 1990. She is also a freelance writer and mother of two. To order Counselor's Clips, school resource articles and newsletters, please visit