Transitioning Your Child to Middle School

Katie-Pennington-Transitioning-to--Middle-School

As a high school principal with young kids, it’s a nice change to be with a different age group when I come home from work. Although what’s shocking to me is that my oldest son is going to be entering middle school next year! In the blink of an eye, my son will soon be a teenager, just like the kids who I work alongside with every day. You would think that as a high school principal, this transition would be easy for me since I somewhat serve as a guide to hundreds of teenagers. But it’s actually far from that.

You can tell I’m not taking this as well as you would think. So I turned to Google for help to cope with this change in my life. The tips I found were so relatable that I felt like I should write about this on my blog to help other parents like me experiencing this shock.

They Might Want to Get Involved with Extracurricular Activities

Elementary schools often don’t have extra-curricular activities like the school baseball or softball teams. However, middle schools do and this is new territory for parents and kids. Usually your child would catch the bus home after school or your would stay at an after-school program until you could pick them up after work. But extracurricular activities may keep your child after school long after the busses have left for the day. Talk to your child to see if they’re interested to participate in any activities. Chances are they might, and that opens up a whole new topic: ownership of a cell phone to stay in contact with your kids.

Cell Phones

These days it’s common for kids to have a cell phone at this age. Did you know the average age for a child to get a cell phone is 10? And it’s with good reason. Some parents work late, kids stay after school for activities and some going to friend’s houses after school. With your child hopping from place to place, parents still want to keep in contact with their kids.

Children’s cell phone ownership can be tricky, especially if they have a smartphone. It’s like they have access a world you can’t see in their pocket! As a parent, make sure you talk to your child about the proper use of a smartphone and use parental controls. I have some more guidance tips on a past blog I wrote here.

Help Them Adjust

Some elementary schools structure their schedule to have students switch teachers and classrooms throughout the day to help them adjust to middle school. Others do not, and children are stationary in one room all day. Middle school will be a significant change, as students hop from classroom to classroom and they won’t get to know their teachers and peers as well.

Your child will have to learn to self-regulate themselves to get to class. Talk to your child to see if they know where the lunchroom is, where the classrooms are, and how to effectively stop at their locker to switch out materials before the next class begins. Your child will also have to push themselves to make friends, since it might not be as easy as it was in elementary school where almost everyone class was their friend. Reassure your child that everyone his age will be new and everyone is going through the changes too.

Grandmothers: Our Evolutionary Heroes

Unlike many other species, humans have the unique ability to live well past their child-bearing years. Biologically, these women can no longer reproduce yet their roles have become embedded into our species. What is the role of a grandmother? How exactly did she benefit our evolution?

Thanks to a team of researchers and a computer simulator, the “grandmother hypothesis” offers an exciting perspective on the unique role of grandmothers in our evolutionary history. According to the study, grandmothers held more than an instrumental role in caring for their communities. Their presence may have helped our species develop better social skills, larger brains, and increased our lifespan.

“Grandmothering was the initial step toward making us who we are,” says researcher Kristen Hawkes in a recent article published by the Smithsonian. Kristen and her team provide mathematical evidence for their hypothesis by simulating what would happen if menopause was introduced to 1% of the females in a primate species. While this may seem like a small sample, the introduction of a human life-span to the group led to amazing discoveries. Over the course of 60,000 simulated years and thousands of generations, these females, gifted with the unique ability to live past child-rearing years, were able to lengthen the life spans of their own families.

Photo of monkey family

In short, creating the role of a grandmother to the group, increased the lifespan from an average of 40 years to 60.
Why does this happen? To start, from an evolutionary standpoint, the grandmother is an instrumental member of the family unit. The grandmother acts as primary care provider, helping her daughter look after and feed the children in the family. While it may be easy caring for one baby, a mother faces serious time constraints as soon as she bears a second or third child. Her focus revolves around the new baby; providing more care to the infant and less care to the older children.

But what would happen to these older children if a grandmother was not present? They are not capable of finding food. They’d receive far less attention. Their odds of surviving childhood would decrease dramatically.

And when it comes to social interactions, the grandmother mandated that humans rely on each other and engage each other more frequently. While you may not associate engagement with the ability to increase brain size, these types of social interactions are what separates humans from other species. It’s the constant adopting of new skills that led to our larger and more flexible brains.

The role of a grandmother is unique. It’s powerful, selfless, and continues to help our species develop. While we may not face the same harsh living conditions as our ancestors, I’d like to think our need for their role is still as pressing as it was thousands of years ago.

Playing piano