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3 Ways to prepare for the stress of middle school
The transition from elementary school to middle school is a period of significant changes. In elementary school, their school schedule is managed for them. Now your child will have to maintain their own schedule, going from class to class and visiting their locker when they can. In addition to these changes, your child’s body is undergoing changes as well. With the onset of puberty, the hormones pumping through your child’s system brings about not only physical changes but emotional changes as well. Dealing with these sudden surges of strong emotion can be quite challenging. It’s even more challenging because this is a point in your child’s life when they begin to question authority. Failure to learn emotional management strategies can lead your child into trouble. Developing your child’s emotional maturity is the key to a smooth transition to middle school. Here are three skills you can teach your child to help them manage their emotions. These skills will serve them in middle school and beyond. 1. Recognizing Emotions The ability to name emotions your child is feeling will help them deal with their stress and emotions in a productive way. It is typical for many parents to focus on behavior over emotion; for example, they will react to their child’s slamming the door, or rolling their eyes, instead of what led to that action. A focus on behavior alone teaches your child to continue to redirect their feelings towards certain behaviors. Naming emotions is the first step for your child to recognize the conditions leading to a behavior or misbehavior. Once your child has identified the emotion, they can better think about and understand the behavior. We all have signs that our body uses to tell us that we have a strong emotion happening. Perhaps our shoulders get tense when we’re angry. Maybe our hands shake when we’re nervous. Learning to recognize these telltale signs of their emotions will teach your child to stay in control of their emotions. If your child has difficulty putting names to their emotions, this diagram can help them. Additionally, modeling this for your child could help them better understand the act of naming emotions. When you feel yourself having strong emotions, don’t shy away from talking about them with your child. Letting them know you are grieving, or apprehensive, or ecstatic, or stressed shows them that all people go through these emotions, and that is okay. 2. Meditating Mindfulness meditation is a skill that develops focus and thought management skills. Meditation helps you clear your mind by having you focus on the breath. Meditation will train your child to let go of distracting or stressful thoughts and help them get through some of these tougher moments. Meditation will train your child to recognize when they’re having distracting or stressful thoughts before they interfere with being present in the moment. In doing this, this will also help them maintain the focus needed for middle school. There are many apps like Calm and Headspace for guided meditation. These apps have pre-recorded meditation sessions aimed at clearing distracting thoughts and is easy to introduce to your preteen who is probably well-versed in technology. Meditation is a skill that takes practice; start with a short meditation, and have your child work their way up to longer sessions. This can is also a great activity to do together, as both you and your child will benefit. 3. Reflecting Once the emotion has passed, it’s important for them to come back to that moment and reflect on their emotional outburst and the emotions or stresses causing it. This means sitting with your child and asking them how they felt when they were overwhelmed with emotion. Punishment for emotional outbursts without reflection teaches your child to suppress their emotions and not address the actual issue. This will only lead to more emotional outbursts. Sometimes we can know in advance that an unavoidable situation will cause stress. Teaching your child to mentally prepare for these situations is a crucial part of developing their emotional maturity. Asking themselves questions such as “What should I do when I’m angry?” or “What behavior should I avoid?” will help your child to avoid bad behavior well before the moment when a stressful situation arises. Reflection is a skill that will develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence. -- As your children approach middle school or commence to a new grade, the teachers and staff will expect more maturity from your child. With these three skills, a little time, and attention, you can help teach your middle schooler to manage their emotions which is the first step in helping your child manage their behavior. At JEI, our intimate class sizes provide a setting to practice these emotional-management skills while getting a valuable supplementary education. To get started with JEI, find a center near you!
Reach an academic all-time high this school year!
It’s that time, students are getting ready and heading back to school for a new year of learning! This is the perfect time to enroll them in JEI’s enrichment programs because school is often not enough for a complete, well-rounded education. Our enrichment programs are designed to challenge students to master subjects, develop good study skills, practice literacy, and writing, and ultimately boost test scores. This year, help your child reach an academic all-time high with the help of a JEI Learning Center near you. Learn more and enroll today at a Center near you!
Take your teens back to kindergarten to see if they are ready for high school
Summer is just starting, but already you may be thinking about how your teenager is going off to high school in September. This is completely understandable as high school is a huge step in their lives! However, there are ways to prepare your teenager for high school that should make the transition a bit easier. This may seem counterintuitive, but before your teen heads to ninth grade, take them all the way back to kindergarten, another exciting moment in their lives and their first real entrance into academia. In kindergarten, your child started with the basic building blocks to lay down a solid foundation for all their subsequent levels of education. By taking them back to kindergarten, you remind them that they can rely on basic skills, that they have to take it upon themselves to learn for the sake of learning, and that they need to take charge of their own activities. Some of the basic skills that children learn in kindergarten are essential for all active members of society. They include good manners, communication, expression, and collaboration. As basic as these are, consider the importance of communicating clearly and working with team members as an adult. Your teen probably understands the importance of these skills, but many times they can still forget these or choose to ignore them once they enter adolescence. The best way to do this is to have them model off your own behavior. Your relationship will be best cultivated through reciprocation, meaning if you treat your children with respect, they will return that respect. Portray good manners when dealing with teens by saying “please” and “thank you.” Likewise, if you communicate openly and express yourself, teenagers will feel safe doing the same, so you are not left in the dark. Lastly, remind teens that it is important to be helpful members of the community by sharing and working with others as part of a team. The second thing kindergarten focuses on is learning to learn. Children entering kindergarten are not in an advanced stage of education but the very, very beginning. They are learning what it is like to learn, and so the emphasis is placed on the process. They use their senses to figure things out on their own with some outside guidance; this gives them a feeling of control. High school will be a stressful time with increasingly difficult levels of education. All those honors and AP classes and the reward systems like Honor Rolls and valedictorian title can feel overwhelming. Teenagers become driven by those extrinsic factors, such as good grades and GPAs. Outside academics, extrinsic factors include popularity, sports victories, party invitations, and social media likes. The focus drastically shifts to the results. Strip back the fancy titles and reward system in order to strip away the stress on your teens. Remind them that it is all about how they learn rather than what they accomplish. It is good to have ambition and goals, but colleges only use those results to gauge whether youths have established good self-discipline and worked on self-improvement. They use those results to check on the process--does this child have what it takes to grow and handle stress that the real world will throw at them? Enjoy the lessons and the classes. Accomplishments will naturally follow. It is the same with relationships; it is better to nurture healthy ones and get to know people rather than count how many friends and followers they have. In particular, it is imperative that teenagers realize the importance of building a network of supporters through connections and mentors. This leads to the last point: teenagers will have to take charge of their activities. They will have to be proactive in order to become truly independent adults going into college. Although they have more freedom and mobility (hello, drivers licenses!) than kindergarteners, the latter can teach teens a thing or two about taking charge with a hands-on approach. Kindergarteners are innately curious because they are at an early developmental stage where they are trying to understand the world around them; and therefore, they are constantly touching, experimenting, and asking questions (even if it is just “Why?” over and over again). Teenagers need to do the same and start taking charge of the future. This is truly where JEI’s Self-Learning Method® comes into play. They need to develop a growth mindset, head out, and test out different things, such as clubs and activities at school. Just like how kindergarteners dig their hands without restraint into the mud and try out a funny-looking slide, teenagers need to get their hands dirty and blindly go down new adventures by trying out different activities, actively finding what they like and do not like, meeting new people, and keeping an open mind. High school will introduce a completely new realm of possibilities, such as varsity athletics teams, volunteer programs, retreats, external academic programs that require applications, clubs ranging from theater to car mechanics, and part-time jobs. It is an exciting time for teens to dig in and see what sticks, and learn from all the experiences rather than shying away or passively letting life happen to them. Then, they would have a better idea of what to get out of college and what to pursue after graduating! Let your teenager go back to their kindergartener roots. High school and kindergarten are similar in that they introduce your child to completely new environments that give plenty of opportunities for learning and growth. Do not fear the change because you have gone through a similar change before when you dropped them off at kindergarten--rather be as supportive and helpful as possible while giving them room to do their thing! If you want to prepare your children in advance for high school, find a JEI center near you so they can absorb the Self-Learning Method® as much as possible before!