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How to Teach Your Middle Schooler to Plan for Success


a middle school student writes a plan in his notebook while another student works in the background

Think back to when you were in middle school. Do you remember feeling anxious and overwhelmed when you tried something new? As adults, we sometimes forget that what seems routine for us is a scary new situation for our children. Many elementary schoolers and even middle schoolers get anxious or overwhelmed when facing a new challenge. 


You can help your child feel more confident when facing a new situation with one simple strategy: planning ahead. The more you equip your child with solutions, the more confidently they’ll be able to tackle new challenges. Follow these steps to help your child plan for success. 


1 . Forecast Potential Challenges

Work with your child to make a list of their worries. Are they entering a new class that’s known to be particularly challenging? Or are they more concerned that this is the first time they won’t have any friends in their class? Write down every challenge your child can foresee, no matter how likely or unlikely you think it is. 


This step is all about listening to your child and being a safe place for them to express their worries. It’s crucial that you don’t judge them or criticize them for their fears. Instead, validate their emotions by listening to their worries.


“Every child’s fear is real to them – even if it seems silly or irrational to a parent.”

2 . Discern What’s Real

Now that you have a list of your child’s worries, address each one. Work through the list with your child and mark it as likely or unlikely. For example, if your student struggled with Algebra I, it’s realistic that Algebra II may also be a challenge. But, it’s probably unlikely that they’ll be the only one in the class who struggles with the coursework. 


Lean on statistics to help determine whether or not their fears are likely. For example, if they’re concerned that everyone else will already have friends, leaving them with no one to talk to, discuss this data from the Pew Research Center: About three in ten teens feel tense or nervous and wish they had more good friends almost daily.


Knowing that chances are high that the students in their class may also be looking for more friends can make your child feel more confident they won’t be left alone. 


3 . Brainstorm Responses

For each realistic challenge, brainstorm a response. For example, if your student has trouble with math, make a plan for how they’ll get extra help, do extra practice problems, or have you double-check their homework.


Include your child in brainstorming responses as much as possible. Instead of just prescribing a solution to each problem, ask them questions about how they can feel more confident in this new situation. The more your child practices coming up with solutions to their worries, the better they’ll be able to apply this strategy in the future. 


4 . Prepare for Emotions

Don’t forget to include your child’s emotions in your plan. How should they respond if they feel overwhelmed, nervous, or sad? Who can they talk to about those feelings? For example, they may want to speak to their teacher prior to the class about feeling anxious and overwhelmed. That way if they ask to go to the bathroom to gather their thoughts, their teacher may be more understanding. 


Plan for Success by Taking Action Now


Planning for challenges and managing emotions are two essential skills that help children thrive in school and in life. A LeadYouth membership can help your child build the confidence and emotional intelligence they need to not just survive, but thrive in all stages of life. 



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