By: Mozelle Forman
Making the transition from middle school to high school can be a particularly daunting time for students and parents alike. Incoming high school freshmen face demanding academic expectations, worries about friends, and confusing class schedules, and they may become anxious about it all. You, as a parent, are watching your little one become more independent and opinionated, and may not be quite ready for that. At times your teen may look like she wants your input, but at other times she may want to handle things by herself. She is vacillating between the desire to be independent and self-sufficient, and her need for parental support. You may be struggling with wanting to jump in and offer solutions and knowing you need to let her figure it out for herself.
Below are six tips that can help make the transition to high school smoother for both you and your teen.
Help your teen learn the ropes by planning a school visit that will give him a visual representation of his daily surroundings. Make sure he has a clear idea of where his bus stop will be and what time he will be picked up. This allows him to plan how much time he will need to get ready in the morning, allowing him theindependence to set his bed time and morning schedule.
Encourage your teen to get involved in extracurricular activities. This fosters teamwork and a sense of place, which ultimately leads to confidence. And confidence comes with feeling like one belongs. Encourage your teen carefully and respectfully, and if he is hesitant, give him time to come to it on his own.
The higher academic standards of a high school curriculum and increased competition between students require an adjustment that will take some time. Many students earn their lowest GPA freshman year, and then begin to figure things out. Don’t be too hard on your teen if her grades are not up to her previous level, and don’t let her be too hard on herself.
Listen to your teen’s concerns and reassure him that he will not be alone in this process. Be patient and ask how you can be helpful. Don’t jump in to solve a problem or call the school before your teen has a chance to problem solve and, with your guidance, devise a plan of his own. Your teenwill need your patience and encouragement when dealing with his anxiety and frustration when something doesn’t go as planned.
As long as he is keeping up academically and getting to school on time, it is in his best interest to be allowed to determine his own at home schedule. Let your teen initially decide on a bed time, homework and study habits, and weekend socializing. If you find that his choices are interfering with his academic success, let him know what you are noticing and brainstorm a more appropriate schedule.
Open communication between the school and parents is vital for a student’s success. Attending the parent/teacher meetings will keep you abreast of your teen’s academic progress and will forewarn you if your teen is not progressing as expected. While most high schools encourage students to advocate for themselves and seek guidance from teachers and administrators, parents are encouraged to contact the school whenever there is an event in the family, such as a birth, death, marriage of a sibling, or change in living situation that could affect your teen. This allows the school to be aware that behavioral or academic changes may occur due to the stress of the life change.
Adjusting to high school is a big change, and it’s not something that necessarily happens overnight – or maybe even during the freshman year at all. So even if high school takes a longer time to “click” for your teen than you or she thought it would, try to remember that every day, she is learning how to break out of her comfort zone, and this experience is going to help her for the rest of her life.