After 30+ years at Latin and 22 as Middle School Director, Deb Sampey understands what it takes to survive and thrive in middle school. Here, she shares sage advice for parents who are navigating these complicated, but wonderful years for the first time. (Hint: you may find that this advice applies to more than middle school!)
1. Focus on executive functions—developing the mental processes to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks is the #1 predictor of academic success. Beginning in fifth grade, developing these skills is a main focus of our middle school program. Parents can also find ways to build these skills at home.
2. Stick to a routine—growing brains need sleep! Try to limit late-night activities and outings during the week. Kids lose the ability to regulate their emotions when they are sleep-deprived, so learning is a challenge.
3. Have them try it all—co-curriculars are an important part of school life, an opportunity for kids to explore interests and make new friends. Middle school offers something for everyone—or the opportunity to start something new. Encourage them!
4. Say "no"—kids need and crave limits. One of the toughest jobs a parent has is to determine and maintain healthy, age-appropriate limits. The second toughest job is enforcing them!
5. Parent the child you have—not the child you want. Middle school is prime time for kids to learn about who they are and what they like to do. Support this exploration...whether or not it aligns with your personal hopes and dreams.