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Feature Article


Teenager holding notebook over her faceHelping children make successful transition to junior high

Nina Chen, Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension


Moving on to junior high school can be exciting but nerve-racking for most children. Although most young teens are looking forward to entering junior high, making the transition from elementary school is a big step for them.


They may have been comfortable in their elementary school setting where they were the older kids; whereas, in junior high they may be in a new place and they are now the youngest in school. They may have different teachers and peers in an unfamiliar classroom. They will experience more interaction with more students because junior high schools are usually bigger than elementary schools. Because class sizes tend to be bigger, teachers may not be able to pay a lot of attention to just one student; hence, your child may feel less valued than before. Also, your child may be hesitant to attend extracurricular activities because of the uncertainty of new settings or demands.


In addition, your child needs to think about the expectations that come with being in a new school and a higher grade. Teachers may require and expect your child to finish more work and follow assignments with less supervision than in an elementary school.


There are so many things they have to figure out, and they have to learn how to be independent. All of these changes, along with the new environment and new faces at school, may increase your child’s insecurity and discomfort and cause a decline in self esteem.


Moreover, rapid pubertal change may cause your child to have more difficulty starting junior high. If your child is trying to figure out a new school schedule and new friends while also worrying about bodily changes, which seem to be out of control, your child may carry more concerns and stress during this transition period.


Family relationships will also affect your child’s adjustment. For example, parents divorcing or becoming a stepfamily can create another big transition with many challenges for your child. If your family is in this situation, it is extremely important for you to provide your child with extra support.


So, how can you help your child work through all of these changes successfully? In this period, your encouragement, support, care and involvement are very important. Encouragement from parents is key to helping adolescents feel good about themselves. The following are additional suggestions to help guide your child through this challenging time:


  • Talk to your child about how junior high school differs from elementary school, addressing possible changes in the school systems, classroom schedules, expectations and relationships with friends and peers. You may want to share your own experiences from when you were in junior high.
  • Be involved in school. Your involvement can help reduce your child’s stress and worries. If your child sees you get involved and interested in school events, this will help your child be more accepting of the new situation and the new school.
  • Help your child find some familiar faces. It will make it easier to go to school if there are some familiar faces in the new environment. If your child’s friends don’t go to the same school, then help your child keep contact with these established friends.
  • Help your child work independently at home. Your child needs to know how to work on projects alone. It may be difficult at first if your child relied heavily on your assistance or if you always made yourself available to help. Although it may be tough for both of you, it’s important to encourage your child to learn how to plan and carry out schoolwork with less help than in the past.
  • Be supportive. If your child’s grades drop, you should avoid getting upset. The transition and adjustment can be a factor. Avoid blaming or making accusations and talk to your child calmly to find out the reasons. Support your child and help find some ways to work out concerns or problems, such as scheduling time to study and making sure assignments are completed. If you are not sure how to help your child with schoolwork, you may want to talk to the teachers. They may be able to give you some insight and suggestions.


GATEWAY, Issue 2, The Illinois Cooperative Extension Service


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Last Updated 08/24/2015