This article was prepared by ACCESS ERIC, with funding from
the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education
and is in the public domain.
at the Middle School Level
Many parents who are actively involved in the education of their children
at the elementary school level become less involved when their children
reach middle school. However, parent involvement in a child's education
during the middle school years (ages 10 to 14) is just as important in a
child's success at school as it is in earlier grades. If the school doesn't
have a formal participation plan for parents, it is important that parents
take the initiative to continue their involvement and collaboration in their
What Is a Middle School?
Middle schools are schools that group students between the ages of 10 and
14. In some parts of the country, children from fifth to ninth grades are
grouped together; in other parts, seventh- and eighth-graders are in one
school. One of the most common middle school arrangements groups children
from sixth to eighth grades.
What Are Middle Schoolers Like?
As children grow, they begin to experience physical, intellectual, and emotional
changes. The way they learn, feel, see the world, and relate to other people
becomes different from when they were younger. These changes, along with
demands from present-day society and peer pressure, create conflicts and
tension in the adolescent, which are reflected in their behavior in school
and at home.
Young people at this age show a good number of contradictions and conflicts,
which is normal. There is no "model" adolescent. All young persons
are individuals with strong and weak points and with positive and negative
qualities. There are some common characteristics that should be kept in
mind in order to understand and help the middle schooler in daily activities
at home and at school:
- Adolescents have high levels of physical and emotional energy, which
may contrast with long periods of idleness, generally disapproved of by
- They take risks, are curious, and love danger and adventure, yet their
feelings can be hurt easily. This is the time when they feel immortal, but
they worry a lot about what their friends think about them.
- They want to be independent from their families, and at the same time,
they need to be pampered and protected.
- They withdraw and want a private life, and at the same time, they
worry about being accepted by their peers.
- They demand privileges but avoid responsibilities. At the same time,
they are developing an awareness of social problems and the welfare of others.
Adolescents from other cultures sometimes face an additional burden as they
develop their identities and try to comply with the requirements of home
and school. On one side, they have the values and customs of the home that
the family wants to maintain, and on the other, they have to respond to
the demands of their peers and teachers, who have a different set of rules.
Why Is It Important For Parents To Be Involved at the Middle School
The results of recent research are very clear: When parents are actively
involved in their children's education, they do better in school. The
academic level of the parents, their socioeconomic level, and their ethnic
or racial origin are not determining factors for academic success.
It is essential for parents to have a positive attitude regarding education,
and to demonstrate trust that their children can do well.
How Will Your Children and Your School Benefit From Your Involvement?
When parents become involved, both students and school benefit:
- Grades and test results are higher;
- Students' attitudes and behavior are more positive;
- Academic programs are more successful; and
- The schools, as a whole, are more effective.
The participation of all parents, including those with limited knowledge
of English, is important to the academic achievement of their children.
Such participation has many positive consequences for the family, the school,
and especially for the young adolescent:
What Can Parents Do To Support Education at Home?
- The family has the chance to understand the school system better.
- The teachers can understand students who come from other cultures
- The students receive support from adults in order to confront the
problems of adolescence-particularly where these problems are accentuated
by the conflicting cultures of home, friends, and school.
- The school can become the natural extension of the home, aiding in
the preservation of families' cultures and values.
There are many ways that parents can demonstrate to their adolescent children
that they are interested in academic success and that they are available
to offer support and protection when there are problems. Here are some suggestions:
What Can Parents Do in the Middle School?
- Talk with your child about what happens at school every day. Ask often
if there are messages from the school.
- Spend some relaxed time with your children. Share a meal or a snack.
Tell them often what you like about them.
- Listen to and share their worries. Support what you believe to be
good about the school and offer your help to change any school practices
that you believe could be harmful to your child.
- Avoid scoldings and arguments when your teenagers bring bad news home.
Listen to their reasons and offer your help to improve the situation. It
helps if your children know you believe they will be successful.
- Value their education by encouraging homework and reading. Help your
children choose a good time and place to do their assignments and special
projects. Provide the necessary materials and give them your unconditional
The way that parents become involved in the middle school can be somewhat
different from what they were accustomed to in the elementary school. Generally,
the building is larger, and it could be located farther from home. A middle
school student may have several teachers, not just one as in the elementary
school. The schedule is probably more complicated.
Don't be surprised if your teenagers feel embarrassed when you go to their
school. It is not uncommon for them to resent their parents' presence at
school. Here are some suggestions to increase your involvement:
- Get to know several teachers, not just one. Don't wait for a problem
to talk to them.
- Keep in touch with the guidance counselors. They generally know all
of the students in the school, and they can keep you informed regarding
the progress and behavior of your child.
- Read all information on school policies and curriculum carefully.
Normally, schools send this information home at the beginning of the school
- Review your child's school records each year. It is your right, and
you should know what information is in the file.
- Keep informed about your child's grades and test results, especially
in any subjects in which he or she has problems. Ask for help if it is needed.
- Request periodic meetings with the teachers. If you don't speak or
understand English, ask for a translator or bring a bilingual friend or
family member with you. Request information concerning programs that the
school offers for students with limited English proficiency. Be sure your
child is placed in the program that best meets his or her needs.
- Get to know other parents and form support groups to work on problems
and issues of mutual interest.
- Answer notes and other correspondence the school sends. If you do
not understand these messages due to language problems, ask the principal
to send them to you in the language you understand.
(Most of this information has been taken from "The Middle School Years:
A Parents' Handbook," published in 1991 by the National Committee for
Citizens in Education.)
Where Can Parents and Teachers Obtain More Information
About Middle Schools, Adolescence, and Parent Involvement?
The ASPIRA Association, Inc.
1112 16th Street NW, Suite 340
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 835-3600 (English and Spanish)
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education
University of Illinois
805 West Pennsylvania Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801-4897
Staying Connected With Your Changing Child
Article from www.scholastic.com
Check out their website for tons of great stuff!
fine line when you’re raising a tween: You want, and need, to stay
close, but you need to give your child enough distance so she can grow
and bloom. Allan Tasman, M.D., and Allen Josephson, M.D., psychiatrists
and professors at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in
Louisville, Kentucky, offer advice.
Do suggest opportunities to do things together.
"By putting the offer out there," explains Dr. Tasman, "you let your
child know you're there for her." Whether your middle schooler loves
sports or going to the ballet, suggest exploring that pastime together
to demonstrate your own interest in her life.
Don't be too hurt when she turns you down.
this age, the idea of hanging out with friends is far more appealing
than spending time with Mom or Dad. "Keep in mind," Dr. Tasman says,
"that most tweens would rather be caught dead than hanging out with
parents!" So don't let rejection deter you, and don't show that it
upsets you. Just keep offering. One day, your middle schooler may
surprise you with an enthusiastic "Yes!"
Do drive him wherever you can. Your
child might be tired and bleary-eyed, but dropping him off at school in
the morning provides the chance to make sure he's prepared for the day.
It's also a good way to establish a solid routine that the two of you
share, and to provide an opportunity to chat. If your morning schedules
clash, create other chauffeur-driven connections by offering him rides
to sports practice or friends’ homes.
Don't expect it to be easy.
Dr. Josephson warns that connecting to a middle schooler takes
different tactics than younger or even older children. "Spend more time
listening rather than taking action," he says. Simply put, pay
attention to what your child really likes now rather than doing things
she may have enjoyed at a younger age. "Bring home a DVD she's wanted
to see," suggests Dr. Josephson, and let her invite a friend over to
watch it instead of watching it together. Chances are she'll appreciate
Do have dinner together. "Research shows
that dinner time together is one of the most important things to keep
family relations strong," says Dr. Tasman. But don't be overly structured.
"Keep dinner simple," he says. What you serve isn’t as important as
spending time together. "More than anything, the meal provides an
opportunity for interaction."
Do allow him have his own experiences. At this point in his life, you need to step back in order to let your child grow into his own person. "Be emotionally connected," says Dr. Josephson, instead of trying to be physically in the same place all the time. “Listen to what he is saying about what is important to him,” adds Dr. Tasman.
Don't try to like the same things.
Again, your child needs to be different and separate from you in terms
of likes and interests, Dr. Josephson explains. For example, he says,
you may think that listening to the same music will impress your middle
schooler — but don't be shocked if she changes the station or says,
"This is my music; you have your own!"
Do be “in the know.” Ask about what he's reading for school, and pick up that book yourself — you can talk about it in the car or during dinner.