Entering middle school can be both exciting and a bit of a challenge for your tween. It may also be daunting for anxious parents or grandparents who want to make sure their child's transition goes smoothly. (Which is most of us.)

This is a time of life when both you and your child will come face to face with his or her need for growing independence. Finding the right balance is key, and it's not easy. Your child may behave more brashly than he feels, when what he's really asking for is a little support from you.

It may take some trial and error until everyone reaches a comfort level regarding how much independence is enough. Certainly it will require lots of listening and open communication.

Consider these tips when preparing your child for middle school:

1. Familiarize yourself with your child's new school in advance

Go meet the principal and teachers. Walk the halls between classes. What are the school rules? What kinds of extracurricular activities are offered? What's available in the way of after school clubs? Help your child find ways to get involved. Does she prefer sports, drama, student government, clubs?

2. Help your tween get organized around schedules and homework

Having multiple teachers and subjects and changing classes frequently will necessitate a whole new level of organization. What tools will work best for your child? How will you go about helping your child with homework without doing it for him? Helping children with homework shows interest in what they're learning. Doing homework for them makes them feel inadequate.

3. Talk candidly about peer pressure

Your child may be offered drugs, tobacco, alcohol, or even sex at middle school. Coming up with a rehearsed response will be useful. Encouraging your child to stand strong with friends who have similar values will be essential.

4. Get to know the facts about bullying

Bullying might include intentionally leaving your child out of activities, name calling, or even hitting. When children are bullied, they may be afraid to go to school, reluctant to ride the bus, or their grades may suffer. Bullying is a problem to some degree or another in many middle schools. Some schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Find out how your middle school handles bullies.

5. Don't forget to cover the positive aspects of middle school with your tween

: more classes, new teachers, additional activities, time with friends, a special locker, etc.

Most children survive middle school just fine. But if you find they need a little extra help, get it. Most importantly, encourage and support your tween. Hug them every day, even when they pull away and say off putting things like, "Oh, Mom! I'm not a baby anymore you know!"

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