Middle School Classroom

Sending Your Foster Tween off to Middle School

Posted on August 31, 2021 by

The tween years, approximately between the ages of 10 and 13, occur after early childhood and before adolescence. Tweens are typically middle schoolers who are experiencing rapid changes mentally, emotionally and physically. The tween years can be a challenging time for kids and families and especially so for tweens who are in foster care.

So, how does a foster parent prepare to send their tween off to middle school? Here are some points to remember:

Fitting in with their peers can be extremely important to tweens. Foster kids, especially if they are with new classmates, may find this process very difficult. Find out what their school and your community will have to offer in terms of extra-curricular activities and make sure that they are aware of the possibilities. It may be helpful for some youth to get involved in an activity which does not involve try-outs.

The first year in middle school, most often in sixth grade, can be especially challenging because of the changes involved in the structure of the school day. Students who have been used to spending much of each day with the same teacher and in the same room are now are expected to move from teacher to teacher and from classroom to classroom. Many middle schoolers struggle with this adjustment, but it  may be especially challenging for a foster child who is highly dependent on structure. Try to get some information about what a “typical” middle school day will look like and share it with your foster child. Help them prepare and practice what behavior is expected when moving from class to class.

Middle school students have a greater need for organizational skills than children in lower grades. They face increased expectations for managing and completing assignments independently. If your foster child struggles with personal organization, find out in advance what supplies such as notebooks will be needed. Take them shopping with you and give them as much choice as possible in choosing supplies. Before school starts, help them plan what their morning routine will look like. Help them set up a simple work station where they can do their school work and keep supplies. This sort of preparation can help them manage the demands of middle school.

If your tween is entering middle school with an IEP in place, make sure you are familiar with it and know who your contact person will be in their school. Make a point of introducing yourself early in the school year. Remember that your advocacy for your foster child can be a huge factor in their thriving in school. Don’t underestimate what a difference you can make as a caring foster parent.

Finally, remember that the tween years are very interesting as well as challenging. Kids change   constantly in middle school. They want to know more about the world and are eager to learn new skills. And tweens are never, ever, dull. Sit back a bit and try to enjoy the ride.

by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW

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