Sixth grader sad about middle school

My son is a new sixth grader at Albany Middle School.   He came home from his first day of school and broke down in tears.  I thought maybe something upsetting had happened with his friends.  But it wasn’t that.  He has a nice group of friends, and everything was good with them.   He also thought his teachers were “fine” and “seemed nice.”  It was more that he was deeply disappointed by the content of the school day.  Lunch is short, the day is long, and little that happens in class excites him.  He misses elementary school.  Two weeks in, he cried again last night about going back today.  He says “there’s nothing to look forward to at school except lunch.”  He is a bright kid and a fast, self-motivated learner.  Classroom instruction prioritizes bringing struggling kids up to par, which can leave more advanced kids feeling alienated.  I’m worried that might be what’s happening.  What can I do to help him?  Should I even do anything?  Is this just one of those times when kids have to learn that life is  disappointing?  I’m sad that he’s sad.  It’s hard to see a kid with so much intellectual aptitude and curiosity begin to “hate” school.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

I remember having a similar experience in 6th grade, reporting it and my sadness to my parents and they did nothing. It left me feeling unheard and powerless.  I stopped bringing it up and my parents never asked any follow up questions about it.  I survived but it feels sad.  My advice would be to brainstorm with your son how you might solve it. Is it possible to switch to a more academically engaging school?  Even if you can’t change it, at least he’ll know you really heard him, tried your best, and took him and his feelings seriously.  He’s worth it.  Over time, I stopped going to my parents with any difficulties because I wasn’t heard and they didn’t follow up.  I only shared the positive stuff.  

I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s reaction to middle school. This was a tough transition for my son, too. Ultimately, we were not super successful getting the support my son needed from AMS. I do believe the staff cared, but I was disappointed in how they responded and surprised they weren’t able to offer more strategies to engage/excite my son. High School was slightly better than middle school, but my son never loved going after leaving elementary school. It was a really hard time for everyone involved. I hate to be so negative, and do not mean to imply your son will have a similar experience. I am hoping that by sharing our family’s experience you feel reassured that your concerns are valid and don’t wait to take action. I wish you all well! Good luck.

I could have written your post last year. Our son is the same, and continues to be so in 7th grade, though to a lesser extent. I think you hit it when you talk about being at an age when they discover life can be disappointing. This is a kid who looked forward to one thing after the next, not so much anymore. Sometimes he will say "there's not as much to look forward to." He's sensitive and also tends towards negativity, which we are working with. I've found that outside activities (sports, etc) helps, and engaging him constantly about how he's feeling and strategies for coping can really help. You could also maybe offer tutoring afterschool or use other means of keeping him engaged academically - for us we talk about geopolitics, history, etc at home with him a lot. Good luck to you - in the same boat!

 I have an eighth grader at Albany Middle School and his first quarter of his six grade year was really tough. Took us a while to dial-in what new things he could explore. But slowly he became interested in some of the clubs, made new friends with kids from the other elementary schools, and joined a sports team. In time he learned to like school again.  It’s a big adjustment . Wishing him and you all the best!

Yeah, kids should suck it up sometimes. For a few hours or a day. Not for a whole school year!  I would contact somebody at the school to see if you can improve things. A counselor, or a teacher, or the principal. Somebody. If you can't make things better, it is time to think of alternatives.