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About Practical Parenting Strategies with Dr. Heller

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Beginning The Transition to Middle School

Dr. Carey Heller: clinical psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Carey Heller: clinical psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

For those fifth graders who will be transitioning to middle school in the fall, it is an exciting and scary time for many of them. On the one hand, the idea of more expected freedom in middle school can be appealing. However, with that comes more responsibility. In addition, the transition can be tough socially for many children. An article could really be written on each of several important items related to this transition. However, a few general tips will be provided here and more in-depth information about specific items related to the transition will be discussed in future articles over the next few months.

Here are a few basic tips for preparing your child for middle school:

1)     Assess how your child is doing socially. If he or she is experiencing significant difficulty now with making/sustaining friends, seems unhappy, or overly anxious, consider seeking individual therapy (and/or group therapy depending on your child’s specific needs) to help your child with these issues now. While on occasion some of these issues will resolve themselves with a change in environment and/or peers, many times these issues worsen initially at the beginning of middle school.

2)     Examine their time management skills.  In middle school, children are expected to complete homework in several subjects, and the workload is likely to increase considerably from elementary school. If your child seems to have difficulty completing their homework now without significant parental involvement, look at why this is occurring. If your child needs significant assistance with time management skills, consider seeking out a therapist, tutor, or coach (depending on the situation) to assist them.

3)     Look at your child’s organization skills. Is their room neat? Is their desk at school usually well organized? If your child struggles with organization, help them work on keeping their room clean and schoolwork/papers organized. If organization skills are an issue now, they don’t usually resolve themselves simply when your child enters middle school. Having an organized locker and binders can greatly improve functioning in middle school. Practicing these type of skills now at home and with their desk at school can make the transition to middle school easier. If you need professional assistance, coaches, tutors, therapists, and professional organizers can assist your child in improving organization skills.

4)     Evaluate your child’s academic functioning. If he or she seems to be struggling in fifth grade in certain subjects, look at why the academic difficulty is occurring. Is it likely due to not understanding basic concepts? Are organizational skills impeding academic functioning? The demands become greater in middle school, so addressing any academic difficulties now will help ensure a smoother transition. Depending on the severity of difficulties, a psychoeducational evaluation may be very useful in clarifying the cause of the difficulty, as well as in providing recommendations to treat the issue. Of course, when in doubt, it is recommended to reach out to a psychologist, explain your individual situation, and he or she can help you determine if an evaluation, or other method, would be the best option at the present time for your child.

I hope that these suggestions have been helpful.

In addition to regular blog updates, you can follow me through The Heller Psychology Group’s Social Media pages for daily postings of useful articles:

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at with your contact information and availability for appointment times.


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