Paris Andrew, TIP’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement, is here to help gifted students. She used to run the residential programming at TIP’s educational programs, and she is completing a PhD in related areas, so she knows what she’s talking about.
I’m in 5th grade, and the thought of going into middle scares me silly. The social aspects, the academic aspects, etc. The only thing that does not make me worried is thinking about how I am going to decorate my locker! I mean, you can’t really blame me. I will be going from zero homework to piles and piles! Please help me ease my worries. — Little Miss Nervous
The first thing you should know is that almost half the letters I get are from other students your age who are just as nervous about starting middle school. It is completely normal to worry about the future — and it can also be part of the fun! Yes, it will be a new experience. Yes, you will see many new faces and perhaps some of the old. You will step up to a new level of academic challenge and be expected to take on more independence. But just think of all of the opportunities those things mean for you: the chance to make new friends while keeping in touch with your existing friends, the chance to explore all kinds of topics that interest you and discover new areas of interest, and a lot more control over your day. These are the rewards of growing older, and you are going to love them!
The second thing to know is that it’s natural to feel nervous about the unknown. But I promise you that, within a week, you will start to feel comfortable in your “new normal” and that middle school will become as natural to you as attending elementary school is now. So embrace the coming change, look for an opportunity in every new situation, and know that your classmates are going through the same thing.
The last thing you should know is that Duke TIP has put together an entire guide to acing the transition to middle school. Check out the latest edition of TIP’s Academic 411, which contains tons of useful advice on making new friends, dealing with new teachers, taking on more academic rigor, and building your self-confidence. I know you will find it useful—and I know you have lots of wonderful new adventures ahead of you. You’ve got this!
My friends from 3rd grade got put in different classes from me and now they have new friends and we don’t spend that much time together. I mean, I’ve got a new, awesome best friend but I don’t want to lose any of my old friends! What should I do: move on or just try to reclaim them? — Friend Trouble
I vote you do both! Move on and continue to make new friends, knowing that every new friend you make opens the door to seeing the world a little differently, understanding new points of view, and finding new opportunities to learn and have fun together. But also make an effort every now and then to get the old gang together so you can talk about your new lives, swap advice on how to handle your new challenges, and keep your friendship alive. Your parent or guardian can help you think of ways to make that happen. Some ideas in that regard include 1) a “reunion” sleep-over for you and your friends from 3rd grade (keep the circle to your old group, so you all have a topic in common—what it was like in the old days and how life has changed since); 2) getting together to attend a sports event or to do an activity together (this gives you something to do besides reminisce), and 3) inviting them over for a cookout or fun meal (if you are all Harry Potter fans, try a fondue night—it’s like being in Magical Potions class, only you get the eat the results!).
You may find that everyone wants to attend these get-togethers of the old gang at first, and that others begin to drop out as time goes by. If that happens, it’s the natural progression of some people choosing to stay friends and other moving on completely. And that’s okay! Both for you and for them. A great skill to have in life is learning to recognize the difference between those times when it’s appropriate to move on from old friends and those instances when you meet someone whose friendship is so important that you want to keep them as your friend for as long as you can. This is an opportunity for you to get started making those kinds of judgments, since you’ll be doing this for many, many years to come. Now’s a good time to start! You sound like a wonderful friend to others, and I know that will come back to you in the form of new friendships as well as the strengthening of old friendships. Have fun and good luck.
Have a question for Paris? Use our submission form to get the advice you need.