Dear Liz,

My daughter is starting middle school. And we are both nervous about the changes and adjustments. We just moved this summer from a small town and small school district. The schools here are much bigger. We’ve toured her school and met the guidance counselor. Everyone seems so nice. But the size alone is scary. Suggestions?

1st day jitters

Dear “1st day jitters,”

Great timely question. Middle school is tough enough — “the first day they love school, the second day they hate school and the third day they can’t find school.” It is often an awkward time between childhood and adolescence with hormones going crazy. It’s also a tough time for parents who have to learn the best balance between holding on too much and letting go (roots and wings). You did the right thing by touring the school and meeting a guidance counselor. (They rock. I’m biased because I was an elementary and middle school counselor for 10 years.)

Here are some suggestions from the inside, having created a middle school transition program “back in the day."

1. Reassure both she and you that she will adjust, make friends, learn a lot and even have fun.

2. Request a meeting with her school counselor to allow you both to express your concerns and ask for advice about success in her particular school. Often counselors can arrange for a “buddy” to help your daughter find things and even sit with her at lunch.

3. Be prepared by having your daughter organize and pack her school supplies, plan her first day outfit (most likely a uniform — but always know the dress code).

4. Keep and use the planner/assignment journal that the school recommends. Staying on top of assignments and learning to plan for long-term projects is very helpful and important

5. Find a friend — help your daughter meet some kids her age and grade level in her school. And remember — middle school friends can be very fickle — there for you one day and gone the next. A calm consistent household allows your daughter to have a safe haven regardless.

6. Volunteer — with whatever time you have and in a way that isn’t interfering with your daughter’s natural journey — help out. Parents and grandparents make a huge difference in the quality of the education and support teachers so they can truly teach.

7. Stay calm yourself. She will read your anxiety and add her own to it. It will be OK and then it can be great. Taking it a day at a time.

8. Encourage your daughter to ask for help early if she is confused or not sure about her work. Teachers respect students who are accountable for their own success and ask for help appropriately. Have a great transition and joyful success.

Dear Liz,

Go to bed earlier before school starts? Yay or nay? Ages 6, 9 and 12.

Battles already

Dear “Battles already,”

Yes. Twenty minutes at a time. Get room darkener shades or drapes. Have a “wind down” routine that is soothing. Have the adults do the same. Good luck and smart question.

Contact Liz via Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.