Greetings!! It was a great week getting to know your kids. They are all amazing and I am really looking forward to working with them. Students are working on Family Trees using the tool Popplet. Please be patient as they ask you questions like what was my grandmothers maiden name and birthday. Preteens and teens enjoy hearing stories about grandparents and great grand parents. I know this is a busy time of year but it is also a time where we are spending time with family so why not start a conversation about the important people that came before.
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Social Development by Grade Level
6th Grade Social Changes: What To Expect This is a year of transitions, from the physical and emotional changes of adolescence to the new environment of middle school. by Patti Ghezzi
Your child’s 6th grade year is likely to be a bundle of contradictions. He pushes you away, then criticizes you for not understanding him. She is less engaged at school but insists she doesn’t need your help.
“Go away!” your child says one minute. “Don’t leave me!” she says the next.
Don’t be surprised if your involvement in the parent-teacher organization is suddenly a source of embarrassment. Your child may groan when you mention you’ll be at school later in the day when just last year she would have squealed with delight. “It’s not that they want to rebel; it’s part of the change,” says Al Summers, a veteran middle school teacher who now directs professional development at the National Middle School Association. “Parents tend to look at that as ‘My kid doesn’t need me as much.’” In reality, your child needs you more than ever: “This is a development stage where the parent has to be involved with all aspects of the child’s life.”
Rapid Brain DevelopmentThe social characteristics of a 6th grader are hard to miss: Obsession with the opinions of peers, lack of interest in the opinions of parents, mood swings, tendency to keep thoughts and feelings secret from parents, intense desire to fit in with a crowd. Sixth-graders feel awkward. When they cry, they can’t explain why they are upset. The smallest wayward glance can prompt your child to get up from the table and race to her room. “Stop looking at me!” she might hiss.
“The research in this case is very, very clear, “ Summers says. “For young adolescents, it’s the biggest brain development stage next to birth-to-3. It’s also when hormones kick in, and kids don’t understand what’s going on.”
Early adolescence hits most kids around age 10 and lasts until about age 15. Yet children within that age range can vary widely in social development. Some girls are wearing makeup while others are still playing with dolls.
It’s also the year most kids transition from elementary to middle school—so after being the oldest kids in school, they go back to being the youngest. Class sizes are often larger in middle school, which may make it harder for your child to adjust and focus. You can help your child understand the physical and emotional changes she and her friends are going through. You can be there to listen to her struggles and offer suggestions. But parents shouldn’t take it personally when their 6th grader rejects them as a confidante. “This is the age when they are beginning to look outside the family for meaning in life,” Summers says. “They are constantly doing a mental inventory of where they fit in.”
Summers recommends that parents consider compromising when it comes to school involvement. If your child is mortified at the prospect of you chaperoning a dance or field trip, offer to do something more discreet, such as assisting in the teacher workroom or signing up for a fundraising committee. Or instead of chaperoning every field trip, you might agree to attend just one per semester. Don’t feel hurt or turn your child’s normal adolescent development into a bigger drama than it is. Stand your ground when it comes to rules you set up for your child’s safety, such as insisting on meeting his friends’ parents or requiring her to abide by a curfew. Look for ways to compromise that will send a message to your child that you are not going to pull back but you are willing to adapt.
Taking Charge of LearningDon’t be surprised if your child is less engaged and motivated at school. Try different ways to help him become more interested in learning. For example, rent movies and library books that are tailored to his interests. Talk about current events. Ask to see his schoolwork just to check whether you remember it. (Don’t be surprised if you don’t—adolescence hasn’t changed much, but the school curriculum has.)
At this age, kids need to be responsible for their own learning. Encourage your child to speak up when she doesn’t understand something and ask for help before she gets completely lost. Encourage your child to set high goals for himself rather than waiting for you and the teacher to set goals for him.
Parents should be careful not to pass on to their children their own negative attitudes about learning—especially in subjects with a reputation for rigor, like math and science. Parents will sometimes enroll their child in the easier course rather than the more challenging one because of their own fears, says Hank Kepner, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “When the parent says ‘I was never good at math,’ the kid gets the message that he won’t be, either,” Kepner says. Instead, he advises, offer to sit down with your child and tackle a tough math problem together. Keeping a positive attitude during your child’s 6th grade year may not be easy, especially for parents who struggled when they were that age. But it’s important to embrace the changes as a part of your child’s normal transition to adulthood—even if you can’t bear the thought of your child becoming an adult. Consider it one more contradiction that is just part of 6th grade.
7th Grade Social Changes: What To ExpectThe beginning of the teenage years is a confusing time for many adolescents—and for parents trying to understand their behavior. by Patti Ghezzi
To get an idea of the 7th grader’s mindset, take a look at his backpack, if you dare. Chances are it’s a disorganized mess of papers, books, headphones, and half-eaten bags of chips.
“It’s all part of the 7th grade package,” says Susan Rakow, an assistant professor of education at Cleveland State University and a veteran 7th grade teacher.
Grade 7 is a transitional time when kids are leaving their childhood behind and looking ahead to high school. Their lives are changing, their bodies are changing, and keeping their math homework in the correct folder just isn’t a priority. “Seventh-graders, particularly boys, face significant challenges in organization and motivation,” Rakow says. “It’s typical of adolescence. They’re asserting their uniqueness and facing new challenges.”
Actions Have ConsequencesStudents in 7th grade often spend time and energy convincing their parents to go away, but in reality kids at this age need clear limits, meaningful consequences, and parental support. Instead, parents sometimes take a hands-off approach in hopes that their child will become more independent.
For parents struggling with how much to hover during homework time, Rakow offers this advice: Let the first half of the first marking period go by without intervening unless she asks for help. Once you get initial feedback from the school, adjust the game plan accordingly. If her grades in math are terrible, Rakow suggests, you can say “I need to see your math homework every night before you put it in your backpack.”
If that doesn’t happen, “then have consequences,” she says. “Real ones.” For example, you could take away your child’s video games until her grades come up or restrict access to television, the computer, or her cell phone. It’s important that parents make good on their threats of punishment. If you tell your 7th grader you’re going to ground her if you get another report saying she isn’t doing her homework, then you need to ground her.
“Our lives are so busy, we don’t follow through on consequences,” Rakow says. “The kids find out we’re full of baloney.” Another shift that continues from 5th and 6th grades is the need for kids to gain approval from peers rather than adults. They are no longer motivated to do well in school because they want to please their teachers or their parents. They want to gain favor among their peers. Girls who have always been good at math may get the message that it’s cooler to be dumb in class than to be the student who always has the right answer.
They are searching for meaning in their lives but often find school assignments void of meaning. “They question us and say ‘Why do I have to do this?’ and we say ‘Because you’ll need to know it later when you’re in the real world,’ ” Rakow says. Like so many parental retorts, that doesn’t cut it. “They live in an immediate, self-involved place,” she says. A 7th grader responds better to a reply such as “Because if you don’t learn it and your grade drops, you are going to be grounded every Saturday night for a month.”
The hardest part about having a 7th grader is that their behavior can be confusing. One minute you’re talking about current events and your child seems like an adult; the next, he’s stomping away and throwing a temper tantrum, Rakow says. That’s why it’s so important for parents not to let discipline issues slide: “It goes from being a stage to being their behavior.” Time for ExplorationAnother issue parents face with their 7th grader is conflict over activities. Your child may want to play a sport as well as an instrument and remain active in a youth group, running her parents ragged. Or she may want to drop piano lessons in favor of soccer.
“It’s a very exploratory time of life,” Rakow says. “In many cases, the child has a lot of interests.” Rakow recommends allowing your child to explore several activities if he wants to, knowing that by high school his interests will have narrowed. “If you really think they’re making a poor choice, you negotiate,” she says. For example, you may be able to convince your child to stick with piano lessons for one more year if you promise to let him drop the activity without a guilt trip if he still wants to at the end of that time.
Even as your child is busy juggling more activities and subjects than ever before, he may have little to say. You ask how school was: “Fine.” You ask what he did: “Nothing.”
“Too often, the parents give up and don’t pursue it,” Rakow says. She prefers a play-by-play approach: What did you do in first period? Second period? At lunch?
Once your child tires of this interrogation, he might just open up and give you a few more details the first time you ask “How was school?”
The 7th grader can test a parent’s patience, but the key is to not surrender. Once they learn it’s not OK to quit doing their homework, to stop working hard in school, to demand a cell phone only to never answer it when a parent calls, and to mumble one-word responses to their parents, they’ll realize it’s useless to push back. And then, don’t be surprised if out of nowhere you get a glimpse of the fantastic teenager your child is turning into. “When a child is well-parented in middle school,” Rakow says, “I find that they rise to the occasion.”
In 8th grade, kids enjoy being the oldest students in school and look forward to the increased freedoms of high school.
You’ve gotten used to the mood swings. You’ve accepted the fact that your child is taller than you, and you’ve (almost) convinced her that taller does not equal smarter. It took time, but you and your adolescent have learned to live under the same roof. Now it’s 8th grade. The middle school years are almost a memory, and high school looms large. Eighth grade is the year kids turn 13 or 14, making them full-fledged teenagers, an intimidating concept for parents. On the plus side, 8th graders typically have settled into themselves after the initial years of puberty. There’s a good chance the child you see each morning will resemble the child you said goodnight to the night before. “By 8th grade, kids are a little more predictable,” says Len Patton, principal at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, Ga. “You can definitely see the maturing take place between 7th and 8th grades....Magically, when they reappear as 8th graders, they’ve grown up a bit.”
Evolving Friendships Eighth-graders are still concerned with fitting in with their peers, yet finding that ideal group can be difficult. Kids develop at different paces. Longtime best friends may find that one is growing up faster than the other. Petty feuds may play out as melodramatic soap operas and lead to broken friendships. Kids at this age, especially girls, tend to crave a best friend, but that best friend may change often. Even with a best pal, your 8th grader will probably want to find a larger group to hang out with. Some kids will be satisfied with a group of friends and not have one confidant.
In 8th grade, kids are looking ahead to the freedom they’ll have in high school and most likely thinking about—maybe even stressing out about—relationships and dating.
Longing for IndependenceBy the time kids are in 8th grade, they want their parents to treat them as if they are no longer children, Patton says. Yet, they’re still in middle school and need to be given responsibility gradually. At school, most 8th graders are comfortable with middle school and relish being the oldest kids in the building. “They want us to recognize their ascent to being kings of the hill,” Patton says.
And, they want freedom. Parents should give their 8th grader increasing responsibilities yet be ready to rein them back in when necessary. For example, your child may be mature enough to stay home alone with a friend on a Saturday night. But make it clear that you will yank that privilege if your child violates your rules.
As parents give their 8th grader more responsibility, they need to be on alert for inappropriate reactions to newfound freedom. Kids at this age are more prone to risk-taking, says Jerry Parks, a teacher at Georgetown Middle School in Kentucky; “as their world and individuality expands, they become more likely to test authority to evaluate how flexible the system at home and school will become.”
But this doesn’t mean a child is becoming a troublemaker. “Very often, their actions are merely to do just that—test the system—rather than indicate rebellion or incorrigibility,” says Parks, author of Help! My Child Is Starting Middle School! “They see themselves as more mature than they are and often react to peer pressure, or other stimuli, rather than thinking things through.”
In responding to a child who may be pushing boundaries, parents can rely on the solid foundation they’ve built to get them through. “Parents should remember that the middle school years are especially transitional,” Parks says. “They must allow a certain measure of hormone-driven irrationality and not assume that their parenting skills up to this point have been all for naught.” Continue the routine of asking your child “How was your day?” But don’t take it personally if your child continues to keep you in the dark about much of his school life. “Parents should not overly pressure for answers they are not easily given,” Parks says. Even if your child doesn’t say much, the fact that you offer the chance to talk will let him know he can go to you about school when needed. Be on the lookout for drastic behavior changes that could indicate a more serious problem, such as toxic friendships or drugs, Parks says. But be aware that most kids will not go this route. “Parents must always remember that, the great majority of the time, when the middle school changes run their course, the child will generally revert back to the core values and upbringing which parents taught them,” he says.
Homework Headaches Eighth grade can be frustrating for parents waiting for their child to do his homework without prodding. Unfortunately, kids at this age are often hard-pressed to see the point of homework, and they are frequently too disorganized to turn it in when they do take time to do it.
Thus, parents may need to continue intervening. “Parents should assign a required homework time—generally 10 minutes per grade level, in total, per night. Cell phones, TV, MP3 players, online time, and such should be strictly off limits,” Parks says. “Even if they say they have no homework, the child should be required to at least read something related to school. Parents should look over—and ideally talk over—the work accomplished, and adjust privileges accordingly.” Let your child know that by the time she hits high school, you will expect her to manage her homework herself. Make sure she knows that the stakes will be higher in high school, with all class grades showing up on the transcript colleges will see. Watching your 8th grader settle into his teenage self can be exhilarating and unsettling. You can still see glimmers of your child, and you can glimpse the adult he is on his way to becoming. It’s a year of loosening the reins and watching, cautiously, as your child takes those first steps toward independence. And it’s a year when, as a parent, you still have the power to pull those reins tight when necessary.