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.

Keeping Kids Occupied With Tech: The Right Way

Katie-Pennington-Kids-Technology

It’s hard for kids to stay occupied during the winter. Being stuck inside during a snowstorm is rarely fun for anyone, especially bored kids! In my home state of Michigan, snow is unavoidable and is often the reason why kids don’t want to venture outside. Of course, they would rather hold an iPad in front of the fire instead of freezing their toes off sledding.

I love technology and I embrace the endless possibilities it brings to the classroom. However, we must be mindful about how children use technology. Although it can enhance their communication and hand-eye-coordination skills, it may inhibit other skills. Here are a few ways to implement proper technology use with the kids.

Determine What Needs to Come Before the Technology

Screen time is a privilege, so you must establish your child’s responsibilities beforehand. Let your child know what needs to be accomplished to earn screen time. If you have a young child, something as simple as putting their toys away can help them learn about responsibilities. If your kids are older, having them make the bed or dust the furniture can help as well. Both ways will establish technology as a reward for finishing chores, not something that gets taken away if the chores aren’t done.

In addition, you may want to implement technology-free family time for everyone. You can set aside time each day for no texting, internet surfing, social media checking or email sending to talk about how everyone’s day went. You can also plan a technology-free evening such as a game night or a walk in the park.

Set Time Limits

Too much exposure to a screen isn’t good for anyone, especially young children. According to Psychology Today, too much exposure to electronic media leads to delayed cognitive development in young children. Although technology can do wonders for your child’s education, it’s wise to set a time limit. This can vary depending on their age and self-management level. A recent report from CNN provides some guidelines about how to limit media use for young children.

However, the guidelines for older children and teenagers vary depending on the child and the parent. You can factor in how much sleep they should be getting, their homework load and their maturity level. If your child can self-regulate the technology use on their own, you can give them more flexibility. If you believe your child doesn’t have the self-discipline to regulate use, you may need to step in.

Use Controls

Some video game consoles and smartphones have parental controls built in. These can allow you to restrict internet access, restrict the ability to make purchases and restrict downloads of games with mature ratings. Some devices can be programmed to shut down after they have been powered on for a certain time period.

Technology is a wonderful, but challenging tool. The world is changing so quickly, and therefore it may be hard to accommodate our parenting skills to keep up. We didn’t have all this technology when we were growing up! But I can assure you these tips can help you navigate the complicated mix of parenting and technology.

The Good (Enough) Parent

The Good (Enough) Parent (1)

As a high school administrator, I spend my days surrounded by students. At night, I come home to my kids. If working with young people was not my passion, I probably would have switched career paths decades ago. While I’m grateful for the energy that’s produced in such a high energy world, at times I worry that I’m spread too thin. Am I giving all of the children in my life adequate attention?

Parenting is a job without a raise or a vacation. If you allow it, the position will consume your thoughts and linger in the back of your mind. This can be dangerous. Don’t get me wrong, parenting is a job that should be taken seriously. It’s also a job that permits flexibility, trial and error, and even inconsistency.

We’ve all experienced times in our parenting lives where we have less time, energy, even love, to give to our children. In these moments, we’re faced with a choice. We can allow the experience to remain fixed in our minds: I’m not doing a good job. This fixed philosophy is a difficult burden to release. If we’re constantly fearful that what we’re giving is inadequate, we’ll never fully feel accomplished. Worse, we’ll be discouraged to find ways to change. Alternatively, we can adopt a positive growth mindset. This mode of thinking emphasizes growth. While you may be struggling in one area, you’re succeeding in other ways. For example, consider the mother who may feel guilty for driving her kids to school each day because she leaves early for work. While she may feel like this is a disservice to her children; her professional responsibilities provide critical resources for the entire family. While the positive growth mindset may seem challenging to adopt, it’s foundation is built on a hefty amount of self-reflection.

 

Bubbles

 

Self-reflection is a powerful tool to help anyone learn and grow from their past experiences. As good (enough) parents, we continuously reflect on our children. We keep a running tally of physical ailments, emotional outbursts, subjects they might find challenging in school. These lists may seem disparate, however, the self-reflective parent naturally weaves these areas together in his/her mind. They look for direct correlations. Could a food allergy be causing both a physical ailment and an emotional outburst?

Enter the Good Enough mindset. What does that mean? To start, it suggests that you’ve already spent quite a lot of time reflecting on the status of your job. This observation should not be dismissed lightly.

A hallmark of a good (enough) parent points to if and how often we notice our children. Positive attention is a luxury. Don’t allow yourself to forget that.

Further, while we may not be able to solve all of our children’s problems today or even in the next decade, we are able to give them what we can, each and every day. Maybe you’re not able to cook dinner every night but you do carve out time for the bedtime rituals. Cling to these traditions and be present in the moment.

It’s time we release our anxieties. Instead, let’s celebrate all we are doing and strive to enjoy each moment we share with our families. Practicing a positive growth mindset can be challenging. But it’s yet another tool we’ll model for our children. It’s yet another way we guide them, love them, and provide them with what we can.

 

Boy holding lantern

Family

Katie Pennington values her family greatly. She is always learning from her parents and her children.

Family

Katie’s family values stem from her own childhood. She was fortunate enough to be raised by two loving parents who have always supported her in everything she wanted to try. Now that Katie has children of her own, her parents continue to play very active roles in her life; they go above and beyond in their grandparent duties and essentially act as a second set of parents for their grandchildren.