School Beat: Helping bridge the transition

By Nicole Peterson,

Principal, Crestwood Elementary

As a parent and a principal, I experience the unique nature of the fifth grader on a daily basis. The hormones, emotions, physical and mental changes that are happening daily provide a roller coaster ride for the child and for all the adults involved. I am often asked, “How can I help to support my child through the transition to middle school?” Here are some important things to remember about this age. By keeping these concepts in mind, we can help our children make the transition without getting stuck in anxious behaviors and a negative cycle of mental health.

Rockford Schools have embraced the mantra of “Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible.” Being the oldest of the bunch in an elementary setting provides great leadership opportunities for fifth graders in all three of these areas. Students of this age are quite able to think logically about a situation. Yet, they still need direct, specific, and modeled examples of what it means to be responsible in the new situations that are presented. Sharing clear expectations will help students understand what is expected.

Fifth graders are eager to be “fed” in many ways! Physically, they are going through a great growth spurt where they are hungry all the time. They “crave” conversations with peers and parents. They are eager to be “fed” new challenges and opportunities to problem solve with support.

The fifth grader thinks they are mature, but they can quickly need reassurance during situations that tax their underdeveloped coping strategies. Offering comfort and a listening ear during times of rejection, conflict, and friendship issues can help them problem solve and build the further independence that they crave. Offering impartial responses to their conversations helps fifth graders feel like you are listening without judging or solving for them. “Tell me more about that…” “I hear what you are saying…” “How do you feel about that?” are responses that promote further conversation and help them move from emotional to logical thought, and then problem solving strategies.

For additional information, is a great resource for developmental stages.