How Long to Adjust to Middle School

Updated on September 02, 2014
S.R. asks from Scottsdale, AZ
19 answers

My dd started middle school a week and a half ago. Every day is a new crises...i.e. can't get locker open, not enough time to get to classes with the supplies she needs, some mean teachers, not enough time to eat lunch, walking to school with neighbors (new house, new neighborhood), worried that kids don't like her, etc.,
I'm exhausted just listening to all of it. She is 11, starting 6th.
Educational standards seem to be higher too (which is good) but she's having a hard time getting the hang of the routine. How long before your middle schoolers got into the flow?

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answers from Chicago on

It's been awhile since my sons were in Middle school, but truthfully I have worked at them for a very long time. May I give some I hope great advice? Tell her to find someone like me (I wish I was there). I am smiling at kids, helping with lockers and walking them to their classes so they won't get into trouble. I understand there are official people who do these things and there are a lot of rules, but every now and then I think I am an appreciated adult who can help them through this. The teachers are overloaded, administration is adjusting also and well, there are us teaching assistants. So tell her to look for the smiling people there who care, there are really many of us out there.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest she will adjust sooner if you sympathetically listen without trying to help her adjust. Offer suggestions if she asks for them. One of my go to phrases is "would you like any suggestions. Don't try to talk her out of her feelings.

When we validate feelings the person doesn't have to keep trying to get us to understand. She will work it out. How long it will take her is how long it takes. Children are different in ways they adapt.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

Your friendly middle school counselor here! Give her another week and a half (3 total) to figure out the routine stuff like lockers, schedules, timing. The friendship stuff may last a year or two (sorry! Lots of relationship ups and downs, friendship changes at this time. Usually for the best at the end of it all).

You could always call up her counselor and talk about how she's been adjusting, and ask her to check in on your daughter.

Be glad your daughter is talking with you and sharing her day! Just be there to listen, that's all she needs. A place to pour it all out when she gets home.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Middle school is a new beast. Very different than elementary school, and the child needs a few weeks to adjust. 11 is also a tough age. I would ask her if she wants to brainstorm ideas or just vent and if she needs ideas, help her to practice opening a similar locker (or just the whole left, right, left business), pack a lunch she can eat quickly (long lines are why none of our kids bought lunch), put class materials together so she can grab and go, etc. Some people won't like her and some will and it's (like someone else said) a life lesson in working with people you don't like or ignoring them.

FWIW, my "meanest" teacher in 6th grade ended up being my most beloved. Give it time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I believe Middle School is the toughest adjustment because they are coming from elementary where the teachers are a little more nurturing, it is a comfortable environment and they know what t expect.

Middle School involves all of the changes from timing when to go to your locker, switching classes in a short amount of time and scheduling a potty break somewhere in there, of course the lunch that is over as soon as you sit down from going through the cafeteria line and top it all off with the emotional, hormonal and body changes of that age group. It sucks.

MOST middle school teachers realize that the adjustment is not smooth for everyone and they are a bit relaxed for the first 6 weeks in order to get the students into a routine. After the 6 week period, they toughen up on their rules because the students should have had time in the 6 week period to get into a routine, set their own schedule within the schedule, find out which bathroom stop is the most important and has the most time, learn which teacher is ok about allowing a bathroom break at the end of class, etc.

It takes a bit of planning. My daughter divided her day into sections in her planner... she went to her locker first thing and got books in order for the day then took the group of books she needed for a specified time period, then she would stop once during the day to switch out the books to finish classes for the day, then finish up at the locker at the end of the day for any work or books to bring home.

To avoid the no time to eat lunch due to the line being long, she took her lunch and was able to utilize the entire lunch period.

As for the lockers, they usually get that pretty quickly, maybe within a couple weeks.

Good luck. I know it is stressful on you mom as well as your daughter. Hang in there and be supportive and keep encouraging her to talk.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

It is good that she is able to speak with you about all of this.

Be sure when she complains or acts worried you ask her, "What are you doing about this?"
" How can you solve this?"
" What do you need to make this work better?"

And the one question that always got our daughter was "Do you need me to go with you so you can talk to the teacher about this?" She did not want me talking to the teachers. It was embarrassing to her.
I can only recall 1 time she said "Yes, I want you to speak with him."

If she is not used to changing classes and lockers, that can be stressful for her.

At our daughters MS they used to spend time teaching the students how to use an agenda and how to organize their backpacks.

Also even in elementary school they switched classes, starting in 1st grade. So that part was not a big deal, but the middle school had different buildings on the campus, so being in charge of all of their supplies, was an adjustment.

The lunch room was also a huge adjustment, because you never knew who would have the same lunch period. Her "Lunch Bunch" was not always all eating at the same time, so that was always a thing that made our daughter nervous.

They did not use lockers so the students carried everything with them and the classes each had their own set of books and the students kept their subject books at home.

Also you are correct, the pace picks up in middle school from elementary school. The teachers no longer have the luxury of extending a subject or answering a ton of questions during the class period, so 6th graders need to learn to go and see the teacher before or after school to ask their questions or get their answers. the students are expected to ask for help, to seek out the teachers for help.

The teachers do not have time for any shenanigans in class, so they get right to work and expect the students to be paying attention and being prepared. They have a lot more to teach. It is my experience, middle school teachers start out very strict. They are setting the tone for their classes. The students learn good habits from the start. Some teachers will ease off a bit, but this i no longer elementary school. The students are now supposed to be prepared to get to class and be ready to listen and learn.

How is the school schedule at her school? Do they have A and the B days?
Do they switch 6 or 7 different classes each hour?
She needs to organize this so that she can get to classes on time.

Usually each subject had its own color of folder. The left was for homework that was due with the instructions, the right side pocket was for the completed homework and graded papers being sent back.

Why does she not have time to eat lunch? Is she going through the lunch line? Maybe she needs to take her own lunch. Is she visiting with her friends instead of eating? Is she taking too long to go to her locker get her lunch and trade out her supplies for the afternoon?

Have her tell you how her day goes and how often she goes to her locker. If the locker and the class are too far away ask her, what could you do instead of going all the way back to your locker?

IF she is still struggling, SHE needs to speak with her adviser or her first period teacher and let them know she is having some trouble getting to her classes etc. These teachers are used to this.

I like the suggestion of you going into the school at the end of the day and having her show you what her schedule is like within the building and how she gets to class.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My new middle schooler brought ALL of her books home the first day because she couldn't get her locker open! Turns out, several of them did! We got a combination lock and worked on it with her that first night until she had it down. No more problems with that.

Can you get her a rolling backpack so she can carry ALL of the stuff she'll need for several classes, eliminating the need to go to her locker so often.

As for lunch, I've heard that some schools have trouble getting hot lunches to all the kids in time for them to be able to eat. Thus, my GD has elected to bring her lunch so she has plenty of time to eat. Perhaps your DD could do the same.

As for mean teachers, it's a life lesson in how to get along with and take direction from those we really don't care for. Nothing to do there but sympathize.

As far as kids not liking her, there are going to be some who do and some who don't. Again, another life lesson.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Middle school is the worst! Its such a change and stressful for the kids. Plus the kids are getting hormonal and yikes!

I would give it another couple of weeks. She has had a lot of changes and she is freaking out a little. Just listen to her. There really isn't much you can do but be supportive and nod. Give her lots of love and encouragement.

I wouldn't go back to that age for anything!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

give her a couple of Halloween, it'll be old hat

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answers from Grand Rapids on

Some times, It takes several weeks to get the routine. One thing I would look at is her schedule and the layout of the building. Depending on school policy, a small bag can be helpful. Organize her folders, locker, supplies so she isn't forgetting. Look at where the rooms are to the locker. Guide her in grabbing what books at what times. Also, get a cheap lock and practice opening up with a combination. Middle school students aren't used to the right left right combo. Another tip, have her pack a lunch for a few weeks, then she doesn't have to stand in line. Then she can scope out how the cafeteria is working. If she already packs a lunch, hippity hop, eat more less talk (if that's the case). After a good solid 4-5 weeks and she is still really struggling, talk to the principal or social worker.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Around here, middle school is a real dividing line - the kids are expected to step up and assume more responsibility, parents are supposed to step back. But the first few months are rocky because the 6th graders are now the youngest (having been the oldest last year), and some of them are physically dwarfed by kids who have gotten their height already. And if they are changing classes more than they did in the last school, it's even harder to adjust. So it's intimidating on several levels.

I guess it's best to teach your child that every problem is solvable, so let's break it down. Those are skills she will need anyway, as she is assigned projects with longer due dates and so on. The teachers seem "mean" because a) they expect her to become more mature, b) they always start out more strict to get kids into good habits from the start rather than start out too lenient and have a problem and c) they are all completely unknown to your daughter so she has no history or reputation to build on.

Lunch - see if you can find out exactly what time lunch starts and ends - ask the office. Compare that to how much time she had last year. If it's the same, great. If she's got less time because she's getting to the cafeteria late, then why is that? Is she struggling with that pesky locker? Is she doubling back from her last class to the locker to get her lunch, and she's losing precious time? Is she chatting with people? Should she have her lunch with her before the class that leads into lunch?

Locker - can she learn to ask for help? Maintenance? An older student? A nearby and helpful locker-mate? There's no shame in speaking up - only shame in being miserable.

So maybe encouraging her that she can handle this will build her self-esteem. You (and she) can't solve everything on the same day. It's like that old expression: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." So she has to pick one problem and work on it without being overwhelmed with the others. So prioritizing is key. And let her know that there are more resources available as things get tougher - guidance counselors, teachers staying for extra help, etc. These services are paid for by your tax dollars so she can take advantage of them.

But yeah, the first month is just tough. Tell her to ride it out, change what she can, and learn to live with the rest. Maybe set a time limit - 15 minutes a day of kvetching, and get it all solved by Halloween. She's also probably a bit hormonal too, just to throw that into the mix. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

Hate to tell you this, but my daughter was like that all through 6th grade, from first day to last. It was miserable. This year she started 7th and so far so good. I gave her a makeover a few days before school and that seemed to boost her confidence. She still doesn't feel like she fits in, but I'm hoping she's blooming, just in her own time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi S.,

Be patient with her as she shares her concerns.

After she is finished sharing her story, ask her what she needs.

Thank God she tells you how she feels.

Good Luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

It might take her a few weeks to really get into the swing of things. Encourage her to examine solutions to her struggles. Can you bring her to school after the day is over, while the building is still open and let her practice opening her locker? We let the boys practice as many times as they like on open house night. Can you help her to organize her binder so her dividers are in order of her classes, she has her schedule in a document protecter right in front, and she has a zipper pencil bag for regular supplies, and a separate one to grab for Art or whatever other class? What can she do to make sure she gets her lunch eaten? Is she chatting instead of eating? Does she have a watch to make sure she's using her time wisely?

For the rest that you can't fix, just commisserate. That's really all she wants. She's worried and needs to hear that you believe she can handle this. It's a scary transition, going from elementary, where they coddle you and tell you exactly what to do. The teachers in middle are guiding the entire 6th grade class, and I guarantee that she's not the only one feeling a bit lost.

I have a 6th grader and a 8th grader. My 6th grader is already in love with the fact that he's not sitting bored in one classroom all day. So consider helping her to see the bright side. :-) She'll be a pro in no time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

4 to 6 weeks on average.
Our son seemed to get the hang of it in about 2 weeks.
Other might flounder for a few months.
It's not easy.
But then the transition to high school is not so bad.
Middle school is the worst one.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

9 weeks should do it.
Can she use O. large tab divided binder for all classes?
Hang in there!

p.s. Guidance counselor can help with incidentals if she's feeling overwhelmed--locker practice, organization, etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Sometimes kids need to plan ahead. She needs to take her stuff she needs for her first 3-4 classes all at once then switch it all out at lunch for the next chunk of classes. She may actually NOT have enough time between classes. She also needs time to go to the bathroom.

One thing she needs to figure out is lunch. May I suggest she do a journal like tally of her minutes?

Here's the story that makes me think this might work.

A friend of mine went to work at 5:30am each morning and had a routine he went through each day before opening the doors for the senior citizens who used the building as a walking place.

He'd get there and unlock the main door, walk in, shut the door and lock it behind him. He'd walk to the lights and turn on a minimal one so he could see to cross the gym floor. He went and turned on the lights. Then he proceeded to sweep the gym, clean any spots or spills from any activities that had been in the room the day/night before. He'd put toilet paper in the bathrooms, make sure they were in working order, dump any trash, and then he'd go open the door. The people would be lined up to enter.

The business tried to cut his hours and say he didn't need that 30 minutes beforehand. He talked into a tape recorder every day for a week to show every second/minute and what he was doing. They ended up believing him because they couldn't dispute what they heard.

So, if your daughter is too far from the lunch room, standing in line 20 minutes out of a 25 minute lunch break, having no place to sit, what ever is taking her lunch time, she needs to have validation before she goes to speak to someone that she doesn't have time to eat.

She may also find that she has plenty of time if she didn't stop to say hi to her friends, meander through the halls on her way, anything that is directly related to her body getting to the lunch room to eat. She may even not be able to walk that fast and get there in a timely manner.

You should probably visit her for lunch a few times just to see what is going on for yourself. If it's true, that she can't eat lunch then you may need to help intervene.


answers from Washington DC on

middle school was the reason i migrated from public school to private school, then homeschooling.
good luck!



answers from Richmond on

Talk to her about the fact that she can control a lot of her circumstances and, certainly, her reactions to her circumstances. Middle school can seem like such an upheaval and that everything is "out of control." Try to give her back that control - offer to brainstorm with her regarding solutions to her problems, etc. Don't minimize but don't allow her to make a mountain out of a mole hill either. She just went from being top dog to low man out so give it a little while. My stepson pretty much bailed on his first year in middle school - just really struggled with the adjustment of not having his hand held every minute. We talked to his guidance counselor and she was very helpful. Made him feel better too. He's ADHD and pretty immature for his age so I'm betting your daughter will catch on sooner than he did. Still, 1st year of middle school pretty much sucks (sucked for me too as I recall)! Hang in there.

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