1. Require organization. Middle grade students need help with organization. This applies not only to their school responsibilities, but also to their entire life. Their hyperactivity, desire to play, and new awareness of the world tend to conflict with responsibility and orderliness. You may need to require helpful habits rather than hoping your child will exercise them independently. For example, make it an absolute requirement that finished homework be immediately placed in the book bag to avoid wasted time gathering it in the morning or forgetting it altogether.
2. Calm emotions. These may be the most extreme emotional years of your child’s existence. Everything is either awesome or horrible. School is either exciting or boring. Their classmates are either best-friends-forever or bullies. Most kids need help understanding that most of their experiences lie somewhere in the middle. Don’t ignore their feelings of rejection or depression, and talk to their teachers about issues that may need to be addressed at school; but also be their stabilizer who helps them see that unfortunate scenarios may not be as critical as imagined.
3. Keep them busy. Middle-school- age students have energy to spare, and they will find ways to expend that energy. Help them use their energy in a meaningful way. Sometimes, they just need to be sent outside. Other activities such as sports and the arts can be productive, but be careful about over-commitment that makes life more stressful or robs time from academics. If your children appear bored or tend to find mischievous ways to expend their energy, then it’s probably time for them to increase their chores. Volunteer them to give some of their time to a ministry, or volunteer them to rake the neighbor’s yard. Find something productive for them to do, because idle hands at this age causes significant problems, and in many cases, big regrets.
4. Communicate with their teachers. Since communication is a two-way street, be sure to learn how the teachers communicate information to parents. Some teachers use blogs to post important information; some send out email announcements; others use flyers or letters. Learn the best way to contact your child’s teacher when you have questions. A majority of teachers use email, unless the need is critical enough for a personal meeting. Communication is vital because students often forget, overlook, or confuse important details. For example, it’s helpful to know that the teacher posts requirements for the students’ book report on her blog; that solves any debate between the parent and child about how it should be written.
5. Encourage them spiritually. Many of the potential problems these students will face can be minimized if they are growing spiritually. God’s promises to give wisdom to those who seek it, comfort to those who need encouragement, and strength to those who are weak apply to children as well, not just grown-ups. Make church attendance a priority. Monitor their friendships and media influences. Motivate them to read Scripture and books with a Christian perspective. As children in this age group progress hormonally, physically, emotionally, and socially, they need spiritual influences to help them gain a proper perspective on life.