Helping your child maneuver from middle school to high school is very simple in theory. In practice, it requires consistency, restraint, and patience. Let’s break this transition into three manageable parts of the greater whole.
SET REASONABLE AND CONSTRUCTIVE EXPECTATIONS
During middle school, you must have developed some idea of your child’s strengths and needs, habits and routines. Take a closer look at these areas along with your child prior to beginning high school.
1. Subject Areas: Let your child voice his or her best, most interesting, and most hated areas. Make sure to listen.
2. Study Habits: At what time of the day does your child study best? Remember to encourage your child to keep an organizer/planner. Try to set up good habits early on, like packing up the school bag before bed-less chance of forgetting homework, etc.
3. Activities: Social and extra-curricular activities are just as important to overall development as academics. Do you want a brilliant shut in? Athletics and academics go hand in hand, good for the body and mind, and healthy friendships are necessary for self-esteem. Help your child plan social and activity concerns into the academic schedule. By including them as an important aspect of your child’s development, you show your child that you respect his or her friends and social needs.
PREPARE YOUR CHILD TO COPE WITH SUCCESS AND FAILURE
Current policies, both educationally and parentally, focus on success and reward. Yes, success is a great encouragement to development. Keep in mind, though, that failures, big and small, are most often the path to success.
Children often grow more quickly in response to their mistakes than they do to their successes, but if mom and/or dad are not willing to let them make mistakes, children will not have the opportunity for learning from them or for learning how to cope with them. Discuss these three considerations with your child before high school.
1. Realistic goals: Think more year-end then the “I want to be an astronaut” kind. Shorter goals can be most helpful for a soon to be high school freshman. Keep the college plans and majors open until your child voices specific ideas on the subject. Instead, help your child see the skills and abilities apparent in their performance (i.e. instead of focusing on scientist or lawyer, discuss your child’s specific strengths in math or writing. Let your child explore different paths for job application later in their high school career).
2. Coping mechanisms for failure: Let your child fail as early as possible. Receiving a bad homework grade in eighth grade is much better than in eleventh grade. The sooner your child realizes that poor organization and follow through will reap, go figure, poor returns, the sooner they will seek to fix it. If mom and dad are picking up the child before the child falls, what will the child do, when mom and dad are no longer around?
Both big and small, failures must happen. Help your child learn relaxation skills, the art of reorganization, and good communication skills, and don’t pull punches. If your child did not study and failed a test, let your child feel bad about it. Then work with him or her to help him or her do better next time.
A specific note on communication skills: Communication skills are a biggie. When your child gets a grade that disappoints him or her, do not, I repeat do not, talk to the teacher yourself. This is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn necessary life skills. Discuss with your child the best way for him or her to talk with the teacher. For instance, “Mr. Smith, I am disappointed in the grade that I earned on my paper. How might I do better next time?” Teaching your child how to accept less than favorable outcomes while taking responsibility and advocating him or herself toward better future success breeds leadership and strength.
3. Re-Evaluation: Every good plan must have an avenue for evaluation and re-evaluation. Why has the United States Constitution held such success? It has an avenue for change and growth, and it governs individuals that hold stakes in its making. At the least, each marking period should bring with it a discussion of what worked and what didn’t. When discussing these issues, do not lecture. Include your child and encourage him or her to lead the discussion. Use whatever incentives are organic to your child’s success to entice your child to care about his or her education.
If your child is not happy with his or her performance, discuss specific areas that need to be addressed. Eighth grade teachers should be helpful in identifying specific areas of strengths and needs. Listen to them, and then address the areas with your child. Don’t wait for an F on the report card before you talk about areas of need. Likewise, meet with freshman teachers on back to school night. Take your child with you.
This is the number one place where students and parents slip, and after all, it is only human to start strong then slow down during the race.
1. Sticking to your guns: When you make a plan or set a standard, follow through with the consequences, both positive and negative. It is so easy sometimes to let the gray areas slide, don’t! When the area is gray, always, I repeat always, err on the side of standard and lesson. It is especially important to remember this upon beginning any new consequence system. As soon as your child knows that you will not follow through, you might as well through your golden plan out the window.
2. Make your child responsible for the follow through as much as possible: By high school, your child should be self-sufficient in many areas. You should be the guide on the side, monitoring and supporting. If your child is not capable, you will want to address this first. Always make your child responsible for his or her own organization and consequences. The more ownership your child feels in success and/or failure, the closer he/she is to taking on the responsibilities of high school, college, and adult life.
3. If you slip, take ownership: Model good responsibility for your child. Everyone makes mistakes; we are all human. By showing your child that you take responsibility for your own actions, your child will develop this skill more easily. Don’t be afraid to let your child see you fail, and when you do, discuss with your child your own feelings and how you plan to perform better next time. Follow through is important not only in success but also in failure. It is how we grow.
In following these basic ideas, you will give your child every opportunity for success, and remember, it is your child’s success, your child’s development. He or she must be part of planning the transition. Make him or her responsible for it.