Socially preparing our son for junior high

My wife and I cannot believe that our son has already completed elementary school. He will begin junior high in August of 2012 as he enters seventh grade. Most of his friends from elementary school will move up with him, but some of those relationships will change. My wife and I both teach middle and high school, so we have seen those changes as the kids get older. We have already begun talking to our son about the social changes that he will most likely endure as he progresses through junior high school. We want to prepare him as much as we can.

Elementary friends

Our son has kept nearly the exact same friends throughout elementary school. Some moved away or just changed schools, but most went through sixth grade with him. Even without the same teacher, they saw each other often on the playground, during field trips, and after school. At this age, the boys had mostly the same interests, so they easily found things to keep them entertained. They mostly played football and kickball or just chased each other around the playground. He will still see most of the other kids in junior high but maybe not as often due to class changes and varying interests.

Junior high class changes

The positives of class changes include making new friends in their fifty-minute class periods. Our son may sit next to his best friend in one class and then next to someone he never really knew in elementary school in another class. The junior high teachers at our school like having group activities, so he will interact with many kids in each class, some of whom he did not do much with previously. This will give him a chance to make new friends.

Negatives may include losing some contact with his current friends. They will not see each other as much because they will not have all the same classes. They will all meet other kids, and new friends are often more interesting for a while. As teachers, we have seen friendships dissolve simply by not seeing each other less often. We have also seen new friendships develop fast as kids got to know each other.

Varying interests

By junior high, most kids have developed their personal interests. For example, some like sports much more, and some like music or other fine arts. Others like the academic clubs, and still more meet for Bible study before and after school. We want our son to try different activities while young and narrow down to his favorites as he gets older. Varying interests can lead to losing contact with some friends but making many more just as with class changes. The kids normally still like each other, but as they find new friends with similar interests, they expand their social groups.

Making new friends

We want our son to make as many friends as he can and also keep the friends he already has. We expect him to feel confused in the process, but the confusion will work itself out naturally and with our guidance. As he gets older and participates in his favorite activities, he will make friends on each team, in each club, or in each class. He can maintain his current relationships and form new ones. I have seen it very recently at our school. The 2012 graduating class all had many different interests. However, most of them had at least one thing in common with some classmates. Therefore, they all had a bond that grew stronger and stronger each year. They graduated as best friends - exactly 100 of them. They will start over as they spread out into their own directions, but their memories will last forever. We want that for our son and his classmates as well, and we will guide our son accordingly.

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