Advice from the Trenches: Veteran Parents Offer Insight

Let’s face it, folks.  Middle school can be scary and intimidating for parents and students alike.  As part of our community survey last spring, we asked CPMS parents to share any hard-earned knowledge. Here’s that sage advice from our veteran parents who have spent time in the tween trenches.  We can all learn a thing or two to up our game!



  • Buy the biggest binder you can with a zipper, no matter what the teachers tell you.

  • Buy lots of tape-- your kids go through it fast.

  • Remember that your kid has a PE shirt which may need periodic washing. Also, go bigger on the shirt size so it lasts three years. Put your name on it or you will never see it again.

  • Don’t get the spirals with perforated pages that come out easily-- they all rip out with constant use.  And buy a few extra spirals at the beginning of the year. The kids have to replace them several times during the year and it’s nice to have some on hand at home.



  • Figure out ParentVUE and Canvas as soon as you can. Use it often!

  • Set up a Parent Observer account on Canvas.  Even if you don’t check regularly, the system sends you a kind of weekly recap, which is a great conversation starter with your middle schooler about their assignments.

  • Think about getting the ParentVue app.  Makes it easy to check things.


Communication with Staff

  • Be in touch with teachers and your child’s counselor about concerns. Teachers like students to email them directly with questions too.

  • Play an active role in your child's success by communicating with your child's teachers and counselor from the very beginning. Let them know what your child needs to be successful and how you will partner with them. Do not hesitate to be your child's advocate for fear of getting over-involved. You can always back off later.

  • There are many different ways that teachers communicate - makes it difficult to know what’s going on from class to class. One teacher uses google classroom, another canvas, another remind. It takes awhile to figure out who does what!

  • Look through your child’s spirals every now and then to find out what they’ve been up to.

  • It's super important to proactively reach out to the teachers with questions, concerns and clarification. They have so much to juggle that some kids may not get the attention they need because they are just getting by--don't be afraid to ask for updates.

  • Attend Back to School night!  Gives invaluable information!



  • Volunteering is a great way to see what your kids are doing every day, meet teachers and school staff.

  • Middle schoolers are incapable of being quiet or still for long. If you volunteer in the classroom, adjust your expectations.

  • Middle school volunteering looks different than in an elementary school.  The volunteer opportunities are less frequent (especially in the classroom), so prepare to feel less connected to your child and the school.

  • Do not listen to your child if they tell you not to get involved. Involvement is just different at the middle school level, but still critical for helping your child navigate their way through.

  • Even if your child doesn’t want you at school, there are a lot of ways to volunteer that don’t directly involve them, which means you still get a feel for the school, but your child isn’t embarrassed.

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to a teacher and just volunteer your time, even if they haven’t sent anything out.  They might have something for you!


Parenting Tween/Teens

  • Emotions run high during these years. Your job is to be the steady oak in the midst of that storm. Don't get sucked in to their drama, but do make sure you are a refuge for your child and that you have their back if they need support.

  • Know your child and their strengths and weaknesses. Advocate for them. Encourage your child to strive to be a better, more compassionate person.

  • Talk to your kids. Middle school is awkward for everyone and it is the time your kids need an adult in their life to help them navigate challenges at school, with friends, with changing hormones...find a few minutes a day and just talk to them.

  • Your child should be prepared to be self reliant and organized.

  • Do some reading on executive function in teens (just google it).  There is so much development happening in their little brains that it’s important to know what to reasonably expect from them.

  • Do your best to let them be their own advocate with their teachers.  THEY should be emailing with questions about an assignment. THEY should talking to the teacher about a late paper.  Your student will probably hate that, but it’s important to set the example that they are in charge of their own learning and assignments. You can always step in later, but give them the chance first.

  • Grades are secondary.  The most important thing to be teaching them right now are study skills and organization.

  • Since IB grades are 1-8 and most are year long goals, don’t be surprised if scores are low at the beginning of the year. Twice a year, those numbers are converted to grades ie 6.5-8 = A, etc.

  • While tempting, this is NOT the time to back away from our kids. Stay as informed as you can about their life and struggles.



  • Have your kid do after school activities with other Cedar Park kids - it's about the only way you'll meet other kids and their parents.  

  • After school clubs start in October so keep a look out for the sign-ups!

  • Get to know your kid's friends. Have them over to your home after school/weekends.

  • Don’t worry about your child having to share a locker. They get to spend time getting to know their classmates before a choice is made for a locker-mate.

  • If your child is placed in a team with few to no good friends from elementary school, he/she will be fine. My daughter has made a whole new set of friends this year on her team and still has all her good friends from elementary school.



  • Realize that the kids all have a google account through BSD, which means they can go to google hangouts whenever they want.  

  • Be sure you are monitoring what they are doing on their chromebook at home because they probably have more access to things then you think.

  • Per Dr. Anderson, PARENTS are in charge of the chromebook at home.  At school, teachers have a program that tells them if a child is on a site that is not a part of the curriculum.



  • Read the emails that are sent to you!! It has a lot of great info :)

  • It's not scary. Staff are super supportive.

  • Add as many neighbors as you can to your emergency pick up list.  When there’s snow closures, it’s nice to carpool with neighbors and not have to have the office call you to authorize.

  • If your child is burning through their lunch account, maybe just check online to see what they’ve been purchasing.  It will probably shock (and horrify) you!

  • The bus app is actually pretty helpful.

  • Contact Transportation directly if you have bus-related issues.