Preparing Your Child to Transition to Middle School by Jessica Bush

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

Preparing Your Child to Transition to Middle School by Jessica Bush, Bergen County Moms

Making the move from elementary to middle school can be exciting and challenging – now more than ever. Help your child prepare for some of the big changes ahead!

The transition from elementary school to middle school has always been a challenge, and the pandemic has made it even more so. Many 4th and 5th graders need guidance and support in developing the independence necessary to navigate life in middle school, where they must get to class on time with all of their books, notebooks and completed assignments. This is a huge step up in terms of being more independent and responsible.

Parents can play a huge role in preparing their children for this big move. We’ve put together some tips for helping your student handle the changes they will face – well before they get to their new school.

Understanding COVID’s Impact.

COVID has created new challenges for transitioning students. Before the pandemic, elementary school students were comfortable in their classrooms. They had one primary teacher; one desk where all of their notebooks, papers and supplies were; and one cubby where they kept their lunch, their coat, and their personal belongings.

During the height of the pandemic, that familiar routine disappeared. One day they were in school, another day they were home. Papers and notebooks were not in one familiar place. Parents juggled work and helping their kids, and teachers were asked to juggle, too. Many of our 4th and 5th grade students told us that, with the high level of uncertainty and stress of doing school online, their teachers assigned less work.

Kids who were rising 5th or 6th graders last year (depending upon the district) returned to classrooms this September – but without the opportunity to ease into the transition in a traditional way. Suddenly, they’ve been immersed in a new school with older kids, many classrooms and desks, a heavier workload, and limited time between classes. Understanding the additional pressure this puts on your middle school student is critical to helping them adapt and adjust to their new environment.

Class Formats.

The actual format of a school day’s classes is likely the biggest change students will experience. Elementary school students typically remain in one classroom for the bulk of the school day, with instruction and structure provided primarily through a single teacher. For transitioning students, this structure is changes dramatically. Most middle school students have multiple teachers for separate classes and subjects, and this can be an unsettling change. In some schools, students may have six or more classes or “periods” daily, spending a limited amount of time in each class before moving on to the next one. The first thing all families should do is find out what sort of class schedule is offered at the middle school your child will be attending. Then, your student should start mentally preparing themselves for this change.

Educational Materials.

Middle school students have increased responsibilities, especially when it comes to being prepared for class each day. Elementary school students who are used to having a single folder or backpack to hold their academic materials are likely to have different requirements for each class in middle school. Some kids are allowed to carry back packs and some aren’t. Many students are assigned a locker to store books and materials and will have to remember to bring them to classes throughout the day. Some feel pressure because they can’t get to their locker with enough time to get to the next class. We know kids who don’t lock their lockers because it takes too long to open. Others carry everything with them all day because they don’t want to forget something and be unprepared. One suggestion is for students make a list of the materials they will need for each class, each day, to make sure they have what they need.


Many middle school students are overwhelmed by larger school and class sizes. Students will be expected to move around campus each day, and middle schools often incorporate a short window between classes to allow for students to physically walk to their next subject. One transitioning Ridgewood student told us he was having anxiety around the limited time between classes and having to go back and forth to his locker. To help relieve this kind of anxiety, try to arrange for your child to visit their new school before the first day of classes. If they receive a course list in advance (with room numbers), planning out their daily route or routes ahead of time is also a great idea.

Preparing Your Child to Transition to Middle School by Jessica Bush, Bergen County Moms


With more classes, materials and due dates to keep track of, it is absolutely essential for middle school students to develop an organizational system that works for them. Keeping a detailed planner or agenda and consistently logging in homework assignments, projects, tasks, and activities is a great way for students to stay on track. Different students prefer different planners – the important thing is to let them choose the one that works for them. Take your student school shopping and focus on selecting materials that will help with the organization process, including binders, dividers, highlighters, and sticky notes. Arming your child with the tools they need to plan, prioritize, and stay organized is one of the most precious gifts you can give to help them succeed – in middle school and beyond.

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Meet Jessica Bush

For Jessica, “making learning personal” is not just a slogan – it’s the foundation on which she has built Tutor Doctor North Jersey and Rockland. For the past 10 years, her instinct for uncovering the unique needs and desires of students and their families – and her passion for helping them achieve their dreams – have been the hallmarks of her tutoring practice.

Jessica understands that learning is often about more than just mastering academics. Whether it’s test anxiety, executive function, or school avoidance, her expertise lies in helping families address even the most complex learning challenges holistically. Families can count on her not only to connect the right tutor with the right student, but to build a support team with a shared commitment to seeing each student succeed – in school and in life.

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