Your children probably already got used to having a locker, switching classes, and having different teachers in middle school, so high school won’t come as a total shock. But high school is a time of increased peer pressure and decreased parental control. If you’ve done things right up until now, your children should be well prepared to weather the storm. Here’s what you need to do to make sure the high school experience goes well:
1) Let go a little. Yes, its tough. You want to protect them from everything and keep them out of trouble, but you’re not going to be there when they go away to college or get their own place, so now is the time to gradually give them a little more freedom and see if they can handle it. Stop supervising homework so closely, let them make their own lunches and choose their own clothes subject to your approval, and extend the curfew a bit. Let them know that keeping this freedom means staying out of trouble and bringing home good grades. Teachers will expect more independent work than they did from middle school students, so summer vacation prior to freshman year is a good time to give them a little more responsibility for taking care of themselves and for helping with household tasks.
2) Pick your battles. This is a time of intense stress for many students, and getting on their backs about everything will only damage your relationship. Yes, their rooms look like toxic waste dumps, but in the overall cosmic scheme of things, does it really matter? Focus on their grades and their behavior and don’t sweat the small stuff.
3) Understand how hard it is to be a teenager today. When the previous generation went to school, a student getting drunk or a girl getting pregnant was a big shocker. Now students deal with drugs, gangs, and God-knows-what. Sexuality has gotten to be more confusing and fraught with peril than ever before. If your children handle these pressures and make you proud, be sure you let them know it. Your opinion means more to them than they’d ever admit.
4) Don’t be hurt if they don’t want to spend much time with you any more, or even if they’re embarrassed to be seen with you. Some day, they’ll come out of adolescence. If you were close before, you’ll probably be close again. In the meantime, pulling away is how they establish their own identity and values.
5) Understand they’re scared. In just four short years, many of them will be leaving home for the first time and saying goodbye to most of their friends as well. The choices they make may determine the course of their entire lives. Wouldn’t you be scared? Help as much as you can by putting them in touch with professionals in the fields their fields of interest and taking them to visit schools they might want to attend. Freshman year is not too soon to start learning about career choices, but there should be no pressure to pick one. Work with their counselors to give them as much information as possible, and they’ll figure it out for themselves.
6) Let them start earning some of their own money. Limit it to no more than a few hours a week during the school year, but babysitting, yard work, and other chores can help your child gain a sense of independence and pride even before they’re old enough to wonder why FICA is taking so much out of their paycheck. It can also keep them too busy to get into trouble.
7) Most important of all, make sure they know you love them and you will continue to love them even if they occasionally disappoint you. Let them know they can always talk to you.
The high school years are difficult time for most students and parents. By keeping your sense of humor, setting limits but not being overly strict, and letting them know your love is always constant, your teens will become people you’ll be proud of.