Starting high school is a huge step for young teenagers, and the months and weeks before that first day of freshmen year might be filled with all kinds of anxieties (for both you and your child) as well as excitement.
There's lots to look forward to in the world of high school—new classes, extracurricular activities and new friends (and, yes, starting romantic relationships, too). But the worries are there, as well, and that can understandably dampen kids' enthusiasm.
The concerns that your child has about high school tend to break down into three areas: the procedural, academic and social changes. The good news is there are ways for you to help your child in each of these areas.
Procedural: These are the kinds of worries that kids (and even adults) have going to any new place. Kids have basic questions about their new school, like: Where are all of my classes? Will I get lost? Where are the bathrooms? Who will I eat lunch with? Luckily, this anxiety is fairly easy to remedy and it tends to go away after the first few days or weeks.
Here are a few simple things you and your soon-to-be high-schooler can do to help ease these worries:
—Attend high school events while your child is still in middle school: go to plays, concerts, or sporting events to help them to feel more comfortable and familiar with campus.
—Go to any open houses, campus tours or freshmen day events that the high school hosts.
—Visit the high school's website.
—Use the website or informational days to help your student find out when the first day of school is for freshmen, when the class schedule is sent out, what the bell schedule looks like (i.e., how many classes will they have and for how long), if a campus map is available, where his or her classes are located, what time lunch is and what clubs and activities the school sponsors.
—Embrace and reinforce the excitement about new electives, clubs and sports.
Academic: While students are excited to have a wider variety of classes to choose from, they are also generally nervous about the rigor of high school classes, their ability to perform well, the greater amounts of homework and more challenging homework assignments.
To help ease the academic anxieties:
—Ask for a copy of the school's course offerings as well as the graduation requirements for your school district and familiarize yourself with them. (Contact your school counselor.)
—Work on organizational and time management skills; high school teachers may be a little less warm and fuzzy than elementary or middle school teachers.
—Manage and plan time for schoolwork at home in an appropriate study environment that works for your kid.
—Empower your child to ask teachers and counselors for extra help and to inquire about any current tutoring or study programs that the high school may have. (Doing this work for them will not be helpful in the long run.)
—Attend parent nights and conferences at the school.
—Continually visit the school website, join the PTA and look for an email list to join to stay informed. (You know this from middle school, but it is developmentally appropriate that your kid often turns to peers or other trusted adults before his or her parents.)
It's good for parents to take an active role in the academic arena but be careful not to push your kid in ways that are counterproductive. Many students say that the academic pressure they get from their parents is just as bad as the pressure from the school.
Social: Socially, kids are excited (and nervous) to have the opportunity to meet and make new friends. (You might be less excited with some of these friends.) And this is good, because kids who feel engaged and connected to the school tend to have better attendance and a positive attitude toward school, and even do better academically.
Here are some tips to help your teen make the social adjustment:
—Use the high school website or contact the school counselor and try to find a list of clubs, sports and extracurricular activities available at the school. Don't force the ones you are interested in, see which ones excite your child. Make efforts to connect with these peers outside of school when appropriate.
—If your student is interested in sports, theater, band or chorus, attend events at the high school while your child is still in middle school.
—Be aware of any freshman programming that occurs prior to the start of the school year and try to get your student there to begin to meet other students.
—Encourage your child to make plans with his or her new friends on the weekends, whether it's an outing to the mall, the movies, an activity at school or a time at your house; this can help to foster new friendships.
—Set up a late-summer gathering with middle school friends so the kids can reconnect (and compare schedules) before the first day of school.
Your child is going on to high school, but you need to remain available and a consistent presence. Although it is often tough to determine what is too much or too little engagement, insist on establishing core boundaries and expectations (e.g., safety, values, academic effort) and find the right balance for your family. The transition to high school requires renegotiation of procedural, academic and social circumstances both in school and for your family. Embrace your new high schooler; the emerging possibilities for your kid are endless if you allow them to flourish!report abuse