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April 2, 2014

The Daily Parent: How to build strong supports for your middle-schooler

(Continued)

Be honest with the educators working with your child. If you are experiencing a stressful time within your family (divorce, death of a grandparent, job loss, etc.), let school personnel know so they can better support your child. Otherwise, they will sense that something is “off,” but not know what they can do to be helpful. If your child has a learning disability, social challenges, psychological or emotional issues, or is taking any medications the school should know about, tell the staff upfront and work together to make a support plan. This may involve formal evaluation, an IEP or 504 Plan, or simply a verbal or written agreement on action steps at home and at school.

If the school staff is unwilling or unable to support your child properly, you do have recourse as a parent. You may always seek second opinions, outside evaluations, support services within the local community, legal advice and so forth.

Support System No. 2: Other parents

How can parents at the middle school level make connections with other parents when the school environment is less facilitative of these bonds than was the case in elementary school and preschool? Here are a few ideas:

It takes more effort, but get to know the parents of your children’s friends, just as you did in the early years. This gives you a needed window into their family values and allows you to have some level of connection should a time ever come that you need to have an important conversation with one of these parents.

Seek parent connections through school-related committees or events; via Scouts, sports teams or other organized kid activities; or through church, synagogue, or other religious or nonreligious communities.

During the middle school years, connections with other parents do not happen as easily as they used to. They do require a concerted effort as kids become more independent in their social relationships and schools do not want parents hanging around as much. Try to plan out a couple of ways to make these connections so that you have them before you need them. You’ll be glad you did!

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Lori Day is an educational psychologist, consultant and parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport. Her first book, titled “Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More,” will be published in May.

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