How to Prepare a Child for High School

As summer winds down and your child prepares for high school, it may be hard to tell who’s more nervous: you or him. This transition has the potential to be more difficult for the parent than for the child; at this age, your child thinks he knows everything, but is also desperate for your support and love. He’s unsure and insecure, and it means a lot to him to know that you are there for him unconditionally. This balancing of emotions is difficult for a parent; you have to let your child know that you’re backing off and trusting him more, but also that it’s okay to need help and advice.
As your child begins to prepare for high school, the two of you will probably spend some time together shopping for clothes and school supplies. These are perfect opportunities to discuss the upcoming school year; as you do, do more listening than talking. Your well-thought out words of wisdom may be based on years of experience, but they may fall on deaf ears if your child thinks you’re out of touch with the way things are today. Ask your child how she feels about going to high school, what she’s excited about, and what she’s worried about. If she’s having a hard time opening up, ask about how her friends are going to handle the transition; often teenage girls who are self-conscious when talking about themselves will gladly talk about other people, and as they do so, subconsciously reveal their own concerns.
One thing parents tend to worry about as their children grow up is that their child will change who he is to fit in; ironically, a child’s worry is that he won’t fit in. Make it clear to your child that he is a terrific person, and that you love him for who he is, faults and all. Encourage him to join clubs or sports that reflect his interests so he will find like-minded classmates. Ask him what activities he’d like to participate in, and be on the lookout if these choices change drastically a few weeks into the school year.
The most important thing to do as you prepare your child for high school is to keep the lines of communication open. Set some goals together with your child outlining your expectations from each other and from yourselves. Give your child a few guidelines about what you want from her this year; do you expect her to keep up good grades, be open with you about peer pressure, or spend time with the family? She may want you to give her more freedom, be less involved in her schoolwork, and not be nosy about her friends. Working through some of these issues and discussing potential tensions before they’re actually problems may help the two of you weather conflicts more productively.
Keep in mind, there’s only so much you can do. Your child will experience the ups and downs of high school at his own pace, and while you can’t protect him from the disappointments, you can be there to support him through them and celebrate his victories.