Q | A new sixth grader is having a tough time socially. What are some ways I can help her feel welcome and make friends?
A | The transition to middle school can be a challenge even without the added difficulty of joining a class with others who have known one another for a long time.
Begin by letting your student know that you are interested in how she is adjusting to her recent move. As you get to know her, talk with her about her interests and strongly encourage her to sign up for a club, sport, or other activity that would facilitate making new friends. Also, contact her parents, and emphasize to them the importance of their daughter having both a school-based and an outside-of-school network.
In class, engage students in as many cooperative learning opportunities as possible. Vary the makeup of the groups. If your student gravitates toward any students in particular, take notice, and inquire if she has attempted to get together with them outside of school. Then, follow up with her.
Finally, find out how your student is adjusting to middle school in general. How prepared is she for the demands of having multiple teachers and class changes? Is she staying on top of her homework? Keep in mind that her adjustment to the academic demands of middle school will contribute to how she adjusts in other areas.
Question for Dr. Fernandez?
Melanie A. Fernandez, Ph.D., ABPP, is board certified in clinical child and adolescent psychology and is director of the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Program at the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org).