Last year, I felt our whole family was a little blindsided by the middle school experience. I considered switching schools. I considered home schooling. I consider letting him drop out...well, not really. But it was tough for both sixth grader and mom.
This year, I feel we are more aware and prepared for what he will face. He is more mature, more equipped and more confident! Still, here's what I want him to know as he walks into hostile territory:
1. You can tell me anything. I promised not to act shocked (even if I am) or to jump to blame and judgement. I will always be on your side and we will work through tough situations. If you're embarrassed or in trouble, I want to walk through it with you.
2. It's going to be difficult to determine who is really your friend. One day you're laughing in class with someone, but then they leave you isolated at the lunch table. The same person asks for your help on a project but then laughs at you with a group of others. This is not friendship. You will learn whom you can count on and who has your back. There are others who are need you to be a friend as much as you need one.
3. The teachers are on your side, usually. Teachers really want you to succeed, because that reflects well on them. When you aren't grasping a concept, or don't understand an assignment it's okay to ask for help. You can go to them after class, or email the teacher. Show them respect and they will respect you. Be sure they know how bright you are by being actively engaged and doing your best in class. Occasionally, you will find a teacher with whom you really connect and brings the subject to life. Find a way to let this teacher know they matter to you.
5. You are not alone. First off, you have me and your whole family including an extra stepmom and stepdad who are on your team. Secondly, you're not the only middle schooler trying to figure all this out. Others feel left out, clueless, bullied, lost in class and overwhelmed with responsibility. You can survive hard things and you're going to make it!
And just to prove that life does get better...here's a photo of me from my own wild and wooly middle school era: