Navigation Middle School: 7 Tips for Student Success




By Maureen Leming

Welcome to middle school, the years often considered among the most challenging for young people.

It’s a time when your child is more mature and independent than ever, yet they still need your input and guidance. It’s also when new academic and social challenges can have you both feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. As a parent, you’ve likely asked yourself, “How can I help my child navigate in middle school? What can we do to overcome obstacles in middle school and prepare for Upper School and beyond?”

If you’re unsure of the answers, that’s ok. Navigating middle school is something you will learn to do together over time; however, there are things you can do now to help set your child up for success.

Here are our top tips for navigating the challenges of middle school:

#1: Set realistic expectations

Facing difficulties in middle school is common, especially at first – it can be hard for students to find their footing in a new environment, with new teachers, as they make new friends, all while being given more responsibility than ever before.

The first step to ensure that they are prepared to overcome obstacles in middle school is to teach them to set realistic expectations for themselves. They might stumble as they get adjusted – remind them that’s ok. By creating realistic expectations together, they won’t feel as discouraged by their missteps. And those missteps will happen less often if they…

#2: Develop organizational skills

One of the common difficulties in middle school is learning to handle the increased responsibility. To effectively juggle multiple assignments along with their social life and extracurriculars, students need to create a way to stay organized. Perhaps they need a planner and a color-coded filing system, or maybe sticky notes help keep them on track.

At The Hun School of Princeton, all sixth graders take a course called Study Skills, which helps them develop the range of skills they need to be successful students.

Organization is one of the fundamentals covered in Study Skills. It helps everything else fall into place, and it’s never one-size-fits-all. It might take trial and error to find what works best for each student, but once they have a system that works, it will make navigating middle school life so much easier. If they’re still struggling, encourage them to…

#3: Seek out teacher support

Teachers aren’t just there to teach – they really want to help students, so encourage your student to ask their teachers for extra support.

Often, a little extra help goes a long way, and teachers know the resources students can access to help them thrive (and if anyone is an expert on navigating middle school, it’s teachers!). Students don’t have to do it alone! In fact, we highly recommend that they…

#4: Build a supportive network of friends and mentors

Having a positive support system in middle school can have a very critical impact on a student’s ability to overcome obstacles in middle school. The positive influence of friends, teachers, coaches, and parents might not make their workload any easier, but it can make it feel easier to deal with the new challenges they face.

(At Hun, for example, every middle schooler is assigned to an advisor. Each advisory is a small group of students who learn and grow together.)

Remind your student that others (yes, even their own parents!) have insights, tips, and strategies that can help them succeed. Plus, having a sounding board can be really helpful. Their supportive network also plays a big part in helping them…

Hun Middle School Students Learn and Lead

"Hun Middle School made me feel very welcome. In return, I dedicated some of my extra time after school to help fellow classmates in the peer tutoring center."

McGwire T. '19

#5: Cultivate resilience

It would be great if students never failed, never made mistakes, never forgot an assignment. Or would it?

Mistakes are often the biggest initiators of growth, and some of life’s biggest lessons are learned the hard way. If students are resilient, they’ll be able to learn from mistakes rather than be deterred by them. Encourage your child to choose to learn, grow, and do better next time. It’s a lot easier to do this when they also…

#6: Practice self-care

Your child will not overcome obstacles in middle school as easily if they’re not taking care of themselves. Learning to practice self-care is a skill that will make them successful throughout life, so this is a great one for them to master now (and it’s a good reminder for parents, too!).

Self-care encompasses a wide range of things, from fueling your body with proper nutrition and getting enough sleep, to making time to do what you love, to connecting with your friends and family. Have your child make a list of the things that make them feel happy, rested, and rejuvenated, and make sure that those are a part of their life on a regular basis. When they feel good, it’s easier to…

#7: Embrace opportunities for growth

How do you help a struggling middle school student? Encourage them to seek opportunities for growth. It’s not always easy for students to admit when they’re not good at something right away, or when tasks take them extra time and effort. Yet every outcome brings an opportunity.

At The Hun School of Princeton, we know that middle school represents a major transition. That’s why part of our advisory curriculum is to teach our students how to self-assess their academic learning and character development as they grow from young to more independent adolescents. Self-awareness is a developing skill that we value greatly and teach explicitly; it can help our students set goals and choose strategies to achieve them.

If your child is facing difficulties in middle school, chat with them about what their challenges can teach them. Share stories from your time as a student. Remind them of the tools they’ve acquired and that they have the support of the people who care about them. Most importantly, students should know that they never have to face obstacles in middle school alone.

To learn more about Study Strategies – or to join the supportive middle school community at The Hun School at Princeton – visit our Admissions page, or contact us at (609) 921-7600 or for more information.