11 Suggestions for Helping Your Child Transition to Middle School

Hi Everyone,

Wow, it’s August already, and you know what that means…. it’s time to gear up for the new school year.  If you have a child that is transitioning into middle school, I have some advice for you.  My credentials?  Well, I have taught middle school for over 30 years, and I still love teaching that level!  During that time I have helped many of the students and parents through the transition from elementary school to middle school.  Here are my suggestions for what you can do right now to help them start out on the right foot:

1.  As we all know, self image is big, big, big at this age.  Give some thought to that Back to School haircut.  Consider getting the new hair style now, so your son or daughter can get used to it. Plus, that gives them some time to have another cut later on, if they aren’t happy with it.

2.  It’s never too early to start working on a better sleep schedule.  If you start now, then the change won’t be so drastic when September arrives. You and your child can look at the target bedtime that they need to get used to, and gradually work towards it.

3.  Consider a field trip to the library together, to check out some nonfiction books about topics your child is interested in.  That way, your student can remember the good feeling that comes with learning new information.  Another field trip could be to visit a store that has educational books and toys.

4.  Look into whether or not your student’s school offers a summer camp for incoming students.  The camps I have been involved in have been wonderful as far as learning: names of some of the key staff members;  the building layout;  school rules;  how to open a locker; how to stay safe;  and how to make friends.  If there isn’t a camp, the office staff is usually working during August, so you and your child can see if you can give yourselves a tour of the building.  Plus, they can answer any of your student’s burning questions.  And, chances are, you can meet some of those key staff members as well!

5.  As we know, having a locker is a new experience for most middle-schoolers.  So, even if the school hasn’t handed out the locker assignments yet, you could purchase a combination lock for your home use, and have your student practice with it.  After all, the challenge isn’t so much in remembering the three numbers as it is to remember some of the basic rules about how to open a combination lock

6.  Look up the 2014-2015 school calendar online together, and then put the important dates on a large family calendar.  You can take this further by purchasing a small calendar for purse or backpack as well.

7.  If you start buying school supplies, be sure you look up what is required for your specific school and grade level.  Now is the time to concentrate on getting a binder organized and ready to go.  Middle school kids love to decorate the outside of their binders, to show their individuality.  There are some fun duct tapes out there that kids are using, and/or they can make a collage out of photos/words/phrases that they can get off of the computer or out of magazines.  Or, they can show their original art work!

8.  This is a good time to have a discussion about the changes that take place during puberty, and the importance of good hygiene.  Your local library should have some helpful books on this topic.  Here is a very helpful website, too, for all topics involving raising a ‘tween: www.TweenParent.com

9.  Is your child on a healthy diet?  This might be a good time for them to learn how to fix healthy breakfasts and lunches for themselves.  Here is a terrific resource:  http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/

10.  Has your student been a couch potato this summer?  Becoming fit doesn’t just help a student perform better in school, it will really help raise their level of self-confidence.  Why not start taking walks together?  Let’s get the juices flowing and wake up those brain cells!Fi

11. Create a study area somewhere in the home.  Make sure there is plenty of light, and that helpful supplies are at an arm’s reach.

I hope you have gleaned at least one helpful piece of information from this post. I wish for your child to have a wonderful experience as he/she transitions into middle school.



Helping Our Kids Find an Activity They’ll Enjoy

Well, it’s officially summer, and what better time to find an activity for your tween or teen to try.  It’s so important for all of us to find something we are passionate about-something that brings us joy and confidence.  And, although there are many activities and hobbies to try out there that are NOT physical in nature, the two pages I am attaching focus on activities that help develop one’s physical maturity.  These pages are from my self-esteem building book that is sold on this website. If your child is more interested in trying something else, such as one of the fine arts, the same procedure can be used, just listing different choices.  I hope this proves helpful.  Have fun!

Download (PDF, 253KB)

Download (PDF, 248KB)

Helping Kids Understand The Grieving Process

the word support on a cardI found an excellent website for helping kids deal with grieving over life’s losses/transitions.

Here is the address:  http://www.griefspeaks.com/index.html

Lisa Athan is the Executive Director of GRIEF SPEAKS.  The following is only some of her wonderful advice/wisdom.  Explore her site for more information on a variety of topics.

 “Some children fear acknowledging grief, much like some adults for fear of emotional flooding. Grief is powerful and the emotions felt can be overwhelming. Many choose to avoid thinking or talking about the loss as they worry that if they were to feel fully their grief, they may never stop crying. Children need direct encouragement to express their grief and acknowledge their pain. They need to be reassured by adults that this is a good thing to do. Some children fear disappointing their loved ones by showing their true feelings. Some fear being chastised for crying. It is important for adults in children’s lives to let the children know that all of their feelings will be understood and accepted. Giving children permission to grieve as well as healthy opportunities to express that grief in safe ways is all part of helping children to cope and grow through life’s losses and transitions. Children who learn that feelings are simply feelings and that they don’t have to hide them or feel ashamed or embarrassed by them, are that much better at learning about the life long process of healthy mourning.”

I am listing below the worksheet information that I created for my book.  I hope it will help you in any discussions you might have with your child about the grieving process.  I hope it proves to be helpful.


Have you ever misplaced something very important to you, (like the stuffed animal your

parent gave you when you were young), and had a feeling come over you that you

may never see it again? There is a grieving process that people go through when they

experience a ‘loss’. A loss is something that has happened in your life that has caused

you grief, or sadness, whether on a very small scale, (such as losing your favorite pencil),

or on a grand scale, such as the death of a loved one, or the family pet.

Everyone grieves differently—sometimes you might go through the process very quickly;

sometimes you might get ‘stuck’ on one of the stages; sometimes you might skip one or

more of the stages; and, sometimes it can take years to get to the final stage of grieving.

Often the intensity and duration of the grieving process has to do with how many losses

you’ve already grieved over or how close or special the person or item was to you.

Look over the list of losses below, and check off which ones you have already been

through. Some of them won’t seem like anything to have had to grieve over, but most of

the changes, or new experiences that we go through, whether big or small, can be an

emotional experience. Change is often difficult to go through at first, but can wind up

having some positive effect, after a period of time. For example, you might not want to

move to another neighborhood or city, but in the end you might eventually appreciate

the new friends you’ve made, and the skills you’ve gained, such as being able to make

friends more easily.

______Entering Kindergarten _____Divorce of Parents

______Moving _____Death of a Pet

______Being Bullied _____Loved One’s Addiction*

______Losing a Favorite Item _____My Own Illness or Condition

______Loss of Financial Support _____Loved One’s Illness

______Getting Detention or Suspension _____Poor Test Scores

______Entering Middle School _____Argument With Someone

______Losing a Friend _____Loss of Contact With Parent

_____ Death of a Loved One _____ Being Grounded

List other topics you can think of: _____ _____________________________

_____ _____________________________ _____ _____________________________

*In this case, it is usually the loss of hope that a person will grieve over.


Here are some of the stages of grieving. See if you can relate to them, as you think

about some of the losses you have already experienced. Then, you will have a chance

on the next page to analyze how you grieved over one of your losses.

1. Shock. When you first encounter a loss, or even the anticipation of a loss, you might

feel numb inside. You might cry a little, or you might wonder why you can’t cry.

2. Denial. This often happens right along with the first stage. You don’t and won’t believe

the sad event is happening, or going to happen.

3. Anger. A person experiencing a loss often feels that life is unfair. Well, that’s true.

Life isn’t fair. In this stage you probably feel angry that something bad is

happening. During this stage, a person might take his/her anger out on

someone or something else. There’s a term for that, it is called displacement.

Have you ever been so angry that you yelled at someone? Slammed a door?

Hit a pillow? That’s displacement. Anger is one of the stages of grieving that a

person can get stuck on. Sometimes it takes talking with a health professional

to help move through this stage of grieving.

4. Guilt. Sometimes this is called the, “If only….” stage. The person experiencing the

loss might blame himself for not doing more to prevent the situation from ever

happening. It’s normal to feel some guilt, but it is necessary to let it go and

move on. There’s never a good reason to beat yourself up over a situation. It

doesn’t do any good. Things happen. No one can control everything.

5. Depression. This is another one of the stages that someone can get stuck on. The person

might need help from a health professional, and maybe even medication,

since serious depression can actually change brain chemistry. It’s normal to

feel sad about bad things that happen in your life. But, it can be harmful to

hang onto those sad feelings for an extended period of time. Talking to an

adult you trust can help get you through this stage. Some people find it helpful

to journal about their feelings. Finally, time can help the pain go away, and the

sadness can be replaced with fond memories, and a new outlook on life.

6. Tears. Perhaps there have already been some tears along the way, but this is

more like, “The Big Cry.” Sometimes it is in the form of a scream or an angry

outburst. And, as with the other stages, it can be skipped altogether. If you do

experience this stage, it can be quite a feeling of relief, letting out all those

pent up feelings.

7. Growth. At this point you accept the loss and gain resiliency, the ability to bounce

back from future losses more easily.


It can be very healing to try to go over something that has happened in your life; to look more

closely at how you went through it; and to look at what you gained from that experience. Try

to think of one of the losses you checked off earlier, and write it out below. Then, try to describe

how or even if you went through each of the stages of grieving. You might also want to talk with

your parent or guardian about a loss he or she has had, and ask that person to share the various

feelings he or she went through while grieving over the loss. It can be a learning experience, and

a bonding experience for the both of you.

MY LOSS: ______________________________________________________________________

1. Shock.

Did I feel numb? How did I react to the news? ______________________________________


2. Denial.

Did I face the facts, or did I deny this was happening at first? _ ________________________


3. Anger.

Did I have any anger? Did I take it out on anyone or anything? Describe. _______________


4. Guilt.

Did I blame myself at all? If I did, what did I say to myself? ____________________________


5. Depression.

Was I sad? How did I act? What did I feel? What did I say? ____________________________


6. Tears.

Did I have a big cry, scream or outburst of any kind? How did it feel? _ _________________


7. Growth.

Did I finally accept the loss? ________What did I gain from having gone through this

experience? ____________________________________________________________________



Do Kids Know What a Bachelor’s Degree Is?

We are so busy making sure our kids know the math, science and language arts concepts, that sometimes we overlook making sure they also know about some of the terminology we use in our conversations with them.  I remember hearing the term, “Bachelor’s Degree”, when I was growing up, wondering if it was something only male students could earn!  So, here is an overview of most of the college degree choices students have.  Feel free to use it as a guide when discussing the topic with your student or child.  I hope it is helpful.

Types of College Degrees
Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says they have a Bachelor’s Degree?
Does that mean that the person studied about bachelors? It can be very confusing when people
talk about the different types of college degrees. Here is some basic information that might help
you understand the different types of degrees. There are other courses of study besides the ones
listed here. For example, someone could go to a college that specifically helps people become
licensed or certified in certain skills. Examples would be: cosmetology, medical assisting, medical
transcription, and culinary arts. So, if we look only at college degrees, here are the basics, listed in
the order of how much education is required, going from least to most.

Associate’s Degree
*This is basically a two year program, although some people take longer to complete the coursework.
*Sometimes this represents the first two years of a four year program that will lead to a Bachelor’s Degree,
and the credits need to be transferred to a four year school.
*There are different types of Associate’s Degrees, depending on the types of classes taken. An AA is an
Associate of Arts degree. An AS is an Associate of Science degree. There are also AAS and AFA degrees:
Associate of Applied Sciences and Associate of Fine Arts.

Bachelor’s Degree
*This represents the completion of a four year program. The student usually majors in a particular subject
area. Sometimes a student will major in more than one area, or major in one subject area, and minor in
another subject area. The program can take longer than, or even shorter than four years to complete,
depending on how many classes are taken at one time; whether or not a class is retaken in order to earn a
better grade; and whether or not the student attends summer terms.
*Similar to the Associate’s Degree, there are different types of Bachelor’s degrees: BA (Bachelor of Arts),
and BS (Bachelor of Science) are the two main areas, but there are others.
*Within a four year college or university there are different schools, depending on the subject area a
student is majoring in. Examples would be: The School of Journalism; The School of Business Administration;
The School of Physical Education, and so on.

Master’s Degree
*This degree can be earned after someone earns a Bachelor’s Degree. A master’s degree, is also called
a graduate degree. The program usually takes approximately two years to complete, and consists of
coursework taken in a concentrated subject area. Some jobs require a master’s degree. Plus, in some
careers, the more education you have the more money you can earn.
*Similar to both the associate’s and the bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree can be an MS, an MA, or
one of the other types of masters. Masters candidates often write a paper called a thesis.

Doctorate’s Degree
*This is the highest graduate degree one can earn. It is usually called a PhD, (doctor of philosophy),
although there is also a JD, (doctor of jurisprudence), which is an advanced law degree. The program
of studies can take 5-10 years to complete. Doctoral candidates write a long in-depth paper
called a dissertation.
*A doctorate’s degree is usually associated with scientists and professors.






How to Keep Your Tween From Being Bored Over Spring Break

spring break

You know it’s coming, and soon—Spring Break!  Of course, most tweens probably just want to stay up late, sleep in, and overdose on sugar and electronics, but you still might be able to gently suggest some of the following activities:

  • Let them paint their room, just make sure you are OK with their color choices.
  • Encourage them to plan your upcoming Easter celebration.  They might enjoy looking online for some clever decorating ideas, and recipes.
  • Look for a Red Cross Babysitting Course that they can take.
  • Let them plan an outgoing for the family.  Have them research three ideas, and present them to you.
  • Create ways to earn money.  A neighborhood car wash? Yard care? They can make a flyer and take it around to the neighbors.
  • Take them to an arts and crafts store and let them pick out a project to work on.  Does the store offer any classes?
  • Challenge them to fix something around the house.
  • Challenge them to make something useful out of duct tape.
  • Have them create a photo album or calendar using family photos.  Or, encourage them to make a photo album of their own pictures.
  • Is there a piece of clothing that they might be interested in reworking and altering?
  • Is your child musically talented?  He or she could offer to perform at the local senior living community.
  • Have your child make a stack of greeting cards for your use–birthday cards, sympathy cards, thank you notes, etc.
  • Challenge him or her to find a You Tube video that teaches them a new skill.
  • Send them to the library with a list of things to find:  An exercise DVD, a non-fiction book of interest, a magazine, etc.
  • Challenge him or her to come up with an Act of Kindness that they can perform over the break, for strangers, a family member, or a friend.
  • Take a family walk together.
  • Design a fun Scavenger Hunt.  Or, have the tween design one for the family or younger siblings.

I could probably come up with an even longer list, but hopefully this was enough to spark some ideas of your own.  Enjoy!  And, please let me know if this list helped keep this phrase out of your house during Spring Break ………”I’m bored!”.


Resolutions for Tweens


A new year is coming,  Often it’s the adults who try to make New Years Resolutions, but why not encourage our tweens to do the same?  Your child could make his or her own goal for the new year, or you could make one together.  You could put charts up on the kitchen cupboard and put stickers on days when the goal was accomplished or worked on.  Start a discussion with your child about what they might like to work on.  Would it be something regarding exercise?  Nutrition?  Study skills? Learning about something new?  The goal has to come from within, of course. but maybe your child doesn’t know where to start.  Here are some examples of resolutions that a tween (and/or an adult) could make, for self-improvement.  Maybe one or two of these suggestions can ignite some interest:

*Look for an opportunity to volunteer.  Consult the local agencies, hospital, school district, or churches.  You can volunteer to work with younger kids, animals, the elderly, an organization that raises money for a cause –seek out whatever group you’re interested in helping.

*Take lessons to learn a new skill, whether it be to play an instrument, learn a language, try a new sport, or sew a quilt.  Finish this sentence- “I’ve always wanted to learn how to _____________________”.  Now go look for opportunities to do just that.

*Try to raise your grades by naming a set studying time, place, and procedures.  Will you read for pleasure during that time, if you don’t have any work that has to be done?    Will you work on your toughest assignment first?  Will you be sure to have a healthy snack available?

*What area(s) of fitness do you need to work on?  Should you stretch every evening, for improvement in flexibility?  Should you walk/jog 3-4 times a week?  Could you plan on doing pushups and sit-ups during the commercials of your favorite TV show?

*If you have a pet, are you doing what you should be doing to make sure that pet has a happy/healthy life?  Are you cleaning up the animal’s environment?  Spending quality time with the animal?  Or, if you want a pet, what are you willing to do for that pet on a daily basis?

*Do you need to work on making friends?  What activities can you get involved in that will help you towards that goal?

*Do you worry too much?  Perhaps you should be journaling nightly.  Or, are you willing to meet with a professional, someone who can listen to you without judging, and help you with your decision-making?

*Should you be working harder on personal hygiene? Do you shower and wash your hair on a regular basis?  What other personal care practices could you be paying more attention to?  Tooth-brushing?  Washing clothes? Clipping nails?

*How are your relationships with your family members?  Could a relationship with a parent or sibling be improved simply by spending more quality time together? Working harder on communicating?  Showing more love and respect?

*Is there a bad habit that needs to be replaced with a good habit?  Biting nails comes to mind, as does cluttering, forgetfulness, etc.

Well, as you can see, every human being can probably grab at least one of those suggestions and work on it.  We all have things to work on.  And, the thing is, it feels so good when you realize that you overcame a hurdle, or gained a new confidence, that it’s really worth it to keep self-improvement in the front of our minds.

Have a great start to the new year.





Healthy Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens


It seems like electronics are the go-to gift for kids.  But, why not think more broadly about the individual?  Why not encourage a healthier lifestyle by finding just the right gift to help your child mature  personally, emotionally, physically, socially, intellectually, or ethically?  Here is just a starter list of ideas:

*Promise a year’s worth of lessons, in whatever he/she is interested in learning about.  Suggestions are:  art, dance, a musical instrument, martial arts, gymnastics, fencing, fly fishing, swimming, golf, archery, tennis, figure skating, skiing, equestrian skills, etc.

*Give coupons for trips to specific locations:  the zoo; a museum; a water park; a concert or play, a professional game, or competition; a fishing trip; or a shoe store.

*A one year membership to the local gym, (perhaps a family membership?).

*A basketball hoop in the driveway.  (Family games of “Horse” and “Bump” can help with bonding, and skill development, physically and socially).

*A family ping pong table in the garage or basement. Again, this can be such a bonding experience.

*Board games, especially ones that challenge the intellect, and encourage social interaction:  Scrabble and Pictionary are good examples.

*A trampoline, (with safety nets).

*A family gift of a hot tub.

*Equipment or supplies such as:  hand weights; a yoga mat; swim goggles; a pedometer; bike accessories; juggling balls or pins; a bowling ball; golf clubs or balls; skis or ski boots; a fishing pole or tackle box; a hunting rifle; art supplies; a sewing machine, etc.

*Clothing for a specific sport or activity.

*A gift card at a sporting goods store, book store, art supply store, or musical equipment store.

*A coupon for time spent with you, doing the activity or their choice.

Some of the suggestions I have listed that are smaller in size, or are coupons, would simply make good stocking stuffers.  I hope this has helped you think more broadly about gifts for your tween, teen, or your family in general.  Wishing you Merry Fitness and a Happy New You and Yours!

This Guy is the Epitome of Awesome

A word that is thrown around a lot out there is – Awesome. The dictionary describes awesome as very impressive.  I can agree with that, and there are a lot of awesome, or very impressive people, places and things in this world.  Here is a video clip of an awesome guy who has the love and support of his family, to shoot for the stars.  He indeed is a star, and has broken down a lot of the barriers that our society puts in front of mentally challenged individuals.  We can all take a lesson from him about how to love ourselves, and each other, unconditionally.  He also believes that he can do whatever he sets his mind to do.  We need to believe in ourselves more, model that for our kids, and let them know we believe in them.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we just did those few simple things?  Enjoy:




A Fun Project Your Tween Can Make for Herself/Himself, or for a Gift

dream journal

This is an easy and fun way to record your dreams.  Just take a small composition book; glue down a title that you’ve made on the computer, or hand-written yourself, on printer paper; and then glue cotton balls all around it.  I stretched the cotton balls out so they would look more like clouds.  It’s fun to see if you can capture your dream the moment you wake up.  So, this book should be placed on the bed stand, with a pen nearby. And, hey, Christmas is coming.  This would make a fun gift for all ages.  We all dream, don’t we?

Teaching Your Tween About Facebook Etiquette

5 tweens

So, we get it, our kids like to send messages to each other on Facebook.  But, if you haven’t had a discussion with your tween yet about proper Facebook etiquette, here is some advice.  As a matter of fact, there are adults out there who could use this advice as well:

1. Before you hit “Enter” after writing a post, read it out loud.

2. While reading the post out loud, ask yourself…  “Can I see myself saying this to my friend face to face?”

3.  If the answer to item 2 is yes,  ask yourself if you would also be willing to say it to any of that person’s Facebook friends.

4.  If the answer to item 3 is yes, ask yourself if you are also willing to have any of the friends of any of that person’s Facebook friends read it? (That was a hard one to put into words!)  Example:  I write to Sue.  Sue’s Facebook friends can see what I wrote.  Any of those friends could choose to share it with any of their Facebook friends.  And, it can just go on and on.  Something can become viral quickly, and you can’t take things back once they are out there in cyberspace.

5.  Finally, ask yourself if you are willing to have your parent or guardian read your post.

I hope this is a helpful addition to some of the important etiquette discussions you are having at home.