Managing Middle School and Covid-19 this Fall
Rising Covid-19 cases are causing confusion about how to handle educating our children this fall. Middle school can be especially tough. Here are some strategies to consider.
For the past three weeks I have been sharing my thoughts and strategies for developing a personal plan to navigate Covid-19 and education this fall. I started with this post for parents, then shared this one for college-bound students, then wrote this one for high school students. Today I am focusing on middle school.
Middle school students present a unique challenge. They move through their school day with numerous educators and depend heavily on social interaction, just like high school students, yet their physical and emotional development is nowhere near as advanced to fully perceive and process all they face. Not little kids any longer, and yet not able to be fully responsible or comfortable to stay on their own, or be responsible for younger siblings, they are in between and present an opportunity for a special kind of focus.
Should we end up with any type of virtual schooling this fall, and all signs are pointing that direction, parents who work outside the home who have middle schoolers and younger children have a special challenge: how to keep working to support their family and make sure their students can understand their school work, complete it and are safe.
As an educator, parent and Education Coach and Consultant I am seeing all sides of the debate. Educators want to be with their students, to experience the magic that happens in the classroom when our students are learning. Students want to be with their friends and to feel like life is somewhat normal after months of limitations they do not fully understand. Parents are trying to manage taking care of their families, navigating new demands and challenges associated with their careers or trying to find employment, and are now faced with the possibility that their children may not have a traditional school schedule this fall.
There are no easy answers, but there is a way to create a clear pathway forward. Parents, we need to support one another in choosing indivudually what is the best plan for our family situation and commit to encouraging each other to follow it, regardless of whether we choose the same direction or not. We ALL care for our children. How that best plays out is supposed to be different for all of us as we do not all have the same family dynamic.
How to develop a pathway through this mess. As a middle school parent you will have to make some decisions on your own as well as invite your student in to collaborate on how to make everything work. Creating this balance will help your whole family work together instead of working at odds with each other. Ultimately, you are the one in charge and you will need to assert what you believe to be best even if your student balks, but giving your student an opportunity for input and be a part of the decision making process will help make things go as smoothly as possible.
Here are some conversations designed just for your unique season of life:
Definitely read this post to help you process as a parent what makes the most sense to you. The key to success as a family is for you to have a clear understanding of all your options.
Sit down and share those options with your middle schooler visually. It is important for your student to understand all the options you are facing as a family. Most middle school students need to see the options and not just hear about them though. Consider having your student make a chart as you present the options to add an extra buy-in opportunity.
Ask your student to share their opinion about each option. Creating buy-in is essential to family harmony no matter which option you choose. Allowing your Middle Schooler to share her perspectives give her a chance to process all the information and explore her emotions, creating a greater opportunity to arrive at a mutual decison.
Stay curious and use active listening. As parents we have developed the perspective that we have to know all the answers. This was a valuable perspective when they were younger, but it is less important as our students grow and mature. As your student shares his opinions and perspectives ask questions like "What makes you see that option in that way?", "How do you see that option working for us as a family?" and even "Do you see any other options we haven't considered?" are all great open-ended questions to ask.
For those students who are hard to engage this process can still work. Most students act as if they do not care because they are overwhelmed and unsure. Some do not want to cause conflict and only want to please. Others may be defiant and angry. Spme may be all of the above! (Welcome to middle school hormones!) When facing students who do not want to participate, I have found that offering choices helps as well as using open ended questions (not ones that can be answered with a yes or no). Start with saying "We have to make some decisions as a family about school this fall. Would you like to have a voice in that decision or trust us to make the best decision without hearing your perspective or opinions?"
Navigating this stage of life is not easy for any of us. I have a college-bound student who does not want to even entertain the thought that his college academic and athletic plans will not move forward. Our conversations have focused on how he wants to prepare for school based on the information he is receiving from his school. It's tough to let him lead in this, as I believe college athletics will not happen this fall, but allowing him the opportunity to make his own plan and trust he will adapt as needed, has given me peace.
Your middle school student does not need as much freedom as this, but can benefit greatly from having some personal leadership pravtice here. Should your student choose not to participate at all, try not to let worry steal your peace. They will, under your opportunity-giving parenting, develop personal leadership skills. we all did. For now, give the opportunity, probe for understanding, and make the best choice you can for your family dynamic. Then let go and trust God to show up and lead you.
If you would like help processing the decisions you need to make about schooling in the fall, developing an action plan, or setting personal or career goals, I'd love to help. Schedule a free Discovery Call today to learn how I can help you process all you are experiencing in a healthy way.
Join the Conversation: What opinions is your middle school student sharing about how to hangle thier education this fall?
If you are new here, I am a retired educator (public, charter, and homeschool), parent of a 20-something and a college freshman, and an Education Coach and Consultant who guides students, parents, and educators in navigating the education and career development journey through retirement.