High School. If you have ever seen any of the iconic movies such as, Fast Times at Ridge Mont High, 16 Candles or The Breakfast Club – then you are probably aware that the high school years are often the source of much stress for both parents and children. Most kids enter high school around the age of 14 or 15, which seems to coincide with a period of immense emotional growth (and instability) as well as shocking hormonal surges that can turn regimented and otherwise normal children into difficult to handle teen monsters.
Another reason that high school presents potentially difficult times ahead is because life begins to move so quickly when your teen enters high school. Just yesterday, they were in second grade, and with the end of contemporary education now in sight, the future can be a frightening thing for both teens and parents to visualize. Combine that with the fact that today’s high school counselors and ‘career specialists’ are pressuring and pushing kids to choose career pathways at the end of 8th grade, and the craziness associated with highschoolers almost seems reasonable.
Many grown ups don’t even know what they want to be when they grow up, yet 14 year olds are supposed to make that decision?
Preparing your kids for highschool is an important part of being a parent. Not only do your children need to be prepared, but also YOU as a parent, need to be prepared as well. In a best-case scenario, the preparedness for high school starts long before your child is set free amongst the polish floors of the high school. Learning how to be responsible, self sufficient, respectful of self and others, educationally challenged and mature are lessons that kids SHOULD be learning throughout their educational life. Still, there are things that parents can do to help ease the transition from middle school to high school, to ensure the bridge crossing is easy.
One of the most important things for parents to remember is that their child, no matter how much they role their eyes, is looking to them for positive reinforcement. This means that as a parent you should reserve your judgment and preconceived notions about high school. Instead of adding pressure, try to let out an albeit fake, positive attitude about high school. Be excited for your child. Share with them some of the positive and happy stories from your own high school experience. Your enthusiasm, and your display that high school is not something your child should fear or dread, can and will make a difference in how they envision this leap into adulthood.
In order to make sure that your child is prepared, be sure to attend any sort of orientation days that are available. Many kids are able to visit the high school over the summer to familiarize themselves with the surroundings. Since high schools are typically larger buildings with more schedules changes, making your child feel confident at the get go can ease their fears. Additionally, personally introduce yourself to your child’s guidance counselor, and don’t be afraid to tour the school as a parent as well. When school administrators and educators realize that a concerned and involved parent involved, your child will tend to be treated with more equality.
Another way to prepare your child for high school is to ask them what they are anxious (or afraid) of and try to deal with those concerns. It’s perfectly natural for your children to feel some anxiety as they move to a new school with older kids. Just like you would feel anxious starting a new job, so does your child. While actually going to school will be the biggest ease to your child’s first day jitters, it is important to understand (and remember) how your child is feeling.
Parents should also do their best to keep their child involved in school activities. Whether your child is interested in the band or the school newspaper – your child will find that they normally have more outlets for their personal passions and interests at high school than otherwise. Make sure you allow your child to sign up for things that interest them so that they can find a group of like-minded individuals with which to befriend at high school.
As an adult, we try to teach our kids that appearances aren’t everything. And at the same time, as an adult, we realize that appearances do make a difference. Take your child on a special shopping trip to find some new clothes and don’t be completely against buying them something that they only want in order to ‘fit in with the in crowd.’ If a pair of $50 jeans or a new name brand purse can help ease the transition, then at least just this one time – it’s worth it!
Chances are you probably know some kids in your neighborhood that go to high school. Get your child to befriend or talk to these kids so they can get a real insider look at what high school life is like. What many kids find is that when they reach high school, they are treated more like adults and given more freedoms and responsibilities than they are in middle school. And for a 14 or 15 year old, this feels liberating.
When it comes to academics, highschooler or not – parents need to stay on top of their child’s performance in any way possible. Obviously, high school teachers will have different expectations and many kids are thrown off guard by the lack of ‘hand-holding’ that goes by teachers in high school classrooms. Teach your child how to communicate with their educators and make sure that you too, keep open-ended communication going with high school staff members.
After the first week or two, your child will likely settle in to the high school environment. Sure, they will be freshmen. Just remember that the high school years can be a wonderful time of growth for you and your child. Take things day by day, and remain optimistic!