As a high school teacher, I can tell you that most kids adapt just fine after a few bumps and bruises they suffer when high school reality sets in during the freshman year. There are some things that you can do to ensure that your child does their best both academically and emotionally during this important part of their educational career.
1. Make sure your child has strong organizational skills. A big part of high school is being organized and prepared. I can’t tell you how many good students I have had whose grades suffer because they forgot to do the homework, didn’t get the project in on time, forgot we had a test today, and so on. A student who knows how to keep a personal calendar or datebook up-to-date and who can manage to turn their work in on time is halfway there! What you can do: Shop for a cool calendar or datebook before school starts and help your child get started listing project dates and test dates.
2. Make sure your child has a clear homework and study/review routine. I know it’s hard, parents! My little guys have soccer, karate, scouts, etc. too. But, in the end, school comes first and we need to make that a priority in our kids’ schedules. Homework needs to be penciled in – you need a specific block of time dedicated to homework/study/review that does not change much. Make sure you block out enough time for everything. High school homework can take minutes to hours. Make sure your child has the time to complete their work thoroughly and has time to review.
3. Make sure your child is not afraid to ask for help. In high school, kids are expected to be their own advocates to a great extent. They are now old enough to speak up when they don’t understand or need extra help. Of course, the peer pressure factor can keep kids from doing so. So you need to emphasize that fact that teachers can be approached before or after school or class as well. Most high school teachers offer to tutor kids who might be struggling or to set them up with a peer tutor. There really is no excuse for not getting all the help you need to succeed in a class, but it takes some initiative.
4. Make sure you talk to your child about the less positive social pressures they will experience during high school. I won’t even begin to go into detail about some of the shocking things that happen on a typical day in high school, but I can tell you that, before your child steps foot in high school, you absolutely need to have serious talks about sex, drugs, and crime. It is heartbreaking to have a 14-year-old mom-to-be in class, whose parents didn’t realize she was pregnant until the school called and told them when she was already six months along. Sweet as can be. Just because your child is an honor student or a star athlete, don’t think that they are immune to external pressures. One of my best students in ninth grade was a drugged out zombie by eleventh grade and she was absolutely the last person I would ever imagine getting involved in drugs – a straight-A student.
5. Make sure your child has some good friendships and gets involved in an activity or two at school. High school can be a lonely time for some. It is SO important for a teen to have an emotional connection to their peers even if it’s only with one or two kids. If your child has a hard time making friends, encourage them to participate in one or two activities at school so that they can find a few people who have similar interests and goals. This can sometimes make all the difference. To a teen, their emotional lives are supreme and the isolation and desperation some feel is nothing to joke about. Keep tabs on your child’s emotional well-being as well as their academic progress.
High school is an incredible experience in good and bad ways! It is a lifechanging experience that will prepare your child to succeed in their future endeavours. It’s also a time when things can go terribly wrong with some bad choices. Keeping a good and open relationship with your teen during this time of upheaval and change can make all the difference. Be nonjudgmental when you can and lay down the law when you suspect that your child is heading down the wrong path.