A child’s school-age years are filled with many different lessons and experiences, including the challenges of peer acceptance and positive socialization. While many students attend elementary school together for years, children in foster care have the added burden of coming into a school or social setting as the “new kid,” a label that is hard to overcome for many children with poor self-esteem and trauma history. Making the transition from elementary school to middle school or junior high can be stressful, especially for foster children.
The National Education Association offers ways that students and parents can successfully manage this transition.
- Participate in a school-based transition program: Middle schools frequently host open houses for elementary students and their parents, including a tour of the “campus” as well as an information session that describes the daily schedules, coursework and expectations middle school administrators and teachers have of incoming students. In advance of this type of program, be sure to sit down with your child and make a list of questions and concerns of importance to both of you. If your child is worried about academics, spend some time over the summer going over the curriculum; focusing on reading comprehension and math skills.
- Dispel any myths your child may have about middle school with factual information: Ask your child what he/she has heard regarding what goes on at the new school as well as what is happening in the neighborhood. Getting your child to verbalize his/her concerns will give you a sense of their anxiety and fears; importance items for on-going discussion.
- Find a middle school buddy: Ask an older sibling or invite someone to speak with your child and answer any questions he/she may have. Hearing directly from a fellow student may make your child feel more comfortable about what to expect.
- Encourage more reading: There will be more reading assignments in middle school and reading for pleasure during the summer will prepare your child for this increased work load.
- Look for science moments: Trips to the lakefront, museums and neighborhood parks can provide great opportunities to learn about and appreciate the wonders of science; biology and geology will be the primary middle school subjects to which your child may be introduced in the fall.
- Make summer vacations educational: Adding travel to local historical sites and other places of interest will enhance your child’s appreciation of geography, architecture and historical places.
- Review the required school supply list. Purchase your supplies early on in the summer and encourage your child to start journaling and using these materials as part of daily routines. This will prepare him/her for the structure of a new school homework routine.
Marc Bermann, JCFS Recruiter/Trainer 312.673.2755