6 steps to prepare your child for changes to routine in middle school

Moving up from grade school to middle school is a big transition — in more ways than one. The work is harder. The social scene is more complex. And often, the school building is much larger and harder to navigate. Kids with and without learning and thinking differences face new challenges.

But the greatest adjustment may be to the changes in routine. For most kids, middle school is the first time they have to switch classrooms and work with different teachers. It may also be their first time using a locker and swapping out books and materials between classes.

Kids respond to these challenges in different ways. And certain learning and thinking differences, like , can make the adjustment more difficult. Follow these steps to help prepare your child for the new routines that come with starting middle school.

Talk about the upcoming changes.

Your child may have heard it before — at middle school orientation or from a grade school teacher. But kids talk, too. And the information they share may not always be correct.

Separate fact from fiction and talk to your child about the changes in routine you know will occur. Along with switching classes, maybe your child will have block periods in middle school. So classes may be much longer than your child is used to. Or maybe there will be a homeroom period for the first time. Let your child know what to expect as much as possible.

Get the class schedule early and review it together.

Some schools don’t like to give out class schedules well before the start of the school year. If that’s the case with your middle school, explain that your child needs extra time to work out where to be at what time.

Look over the schedule to make sure there are no mistakes. Then help your child create a version that that’s easy to use. Schedules can be put into the calendar on a phone, or written it in a notebook or in a notes app on a phone, for instance.

Tour the building with the schedule in hand.

One of the biggest challenges for new middle-schoolers is getting from class to class on time, and with all the materials they need. It can help to check out the building before the start of school, using your child’s schedule to plot your route. Practice getting from one class to the next in the allotted amount of time.

Take time to walk around. Find the cafeteria, gym, library, bathrooms, and the nurse’s and administrators’ offices. Also, locate your child’s locker. Kids like to know where their locker is in relation to different classrooms.

Set a new daily routine at home.

Your child’s middle school may have different start and end times than grade school did. If it starts earlier, start your morning earlier, too. This can help to avoid a stressful race out the door. Try to adjust bedtime too — although that can be tougher with a tween than with a grade-schooler.

If school ends earlier, you may have to adjust your child’s afterschool routine, as well. How will your child spend that extra hour or so in the afternoon? Doing homework? Having an earlier music lesson or tutoring session? You can ask your child for input, but make sure the routine you end up with is clear.

Organize materials according to the class schedule.

Keeping class materials organized can be a challenge when your child doesn’t have much time between classes. You may want to work together to color-code by subject. For example, use a blue notebook and a blue book cover for science, a green notebook and book cover for social studies, etc.

You can also come up with a plan to organize your child's backpack and locker according to the class schedule. That way your child can easily grab whatever is needed for each class without spending time looking for it.

Offer reassurance.

Adjusting to new routines is a process. Tell your child that everyone will understand if it takes a little while to figure out how to manage it all. That includes teachers, school administrators, and you.

Also, remind kids that they’re not alone. Middle school is an adjustment for all kids. Let your child know it’s normal to feel a little nervous. And reassure your child that you’re there to offer support and help.


Next steps