So, today is my oldest daughter’s first day of high school and I ask myself, how can this be? Rationally, I know that she has grown-up, gone to grade school, and is now at that magical age of 14 years old where kids typically transition to high school. However, the irrational side of me doesn’t understand how this happened. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was in a high chair? Wasn’t I just dropping her off for her first day of preschool? How can she be old enough to be in 9th grade? However, when I see visual proof, such as these photos showing her “then” and “now”, I have to not only admit that she is ready for this next stage, but accept it and do my best to help her make a smooth transition.
So, what advice and guidance can you give a young person just entering high school, so that they are successful academically, socially, and emotionally?
#1. Bring your child to any school “open house” or back-to-school events, as well as review their website, calendar, and student resources. This includes how assignments are graded, getting familiar with the course schedule, and checking where grades are posted.
#2. Ensure they have a good place to study and do homework, preferably a well-lit, distraction-free environment where they can focus, think, and complete assignments.
#3. Encourage your child to make new friends, as well as still stay connected with any existing ones. Remind them that popularity might seem nice, but it’s not necessary and doesn’t equate with getting ahead later in life. Stay authentic and follow the golden rule (“treat others as you want to be treated”). Don’t worry about trying to impress others and don’t let others pressure you into being someone you don’t want to be.
#4. Make sure they maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep and eating right, so that they aren’t tempted to take a nap during one of their classes! This also helps them keep a positive attitude, be more attentive, and balance out their energy level.
#5. Talk with your child about how to mentally prepare them for the next few years. During this time, they will experience considerable growth in many areas, as well as confront difficult situations. It’s critical to have the right attitude and take things as constructively as possible. Also, if they see a fellow student struggling, they should reach out to see how they can support them.
#6. Encourage them to take the initiative and ask questions, whether it be related to finding a classroom, difficulty with a subject, or anything in the student handbook. They should also be aware of the consequences for disobeying any rules, policies, or code of conduct. Remind them that teachers and school personnel are there to help them succeed.
#7. If you notice your teen struggling with academic, emotional, substance abuse, or other serious issues, get immediate help. Unfortunately, with increased independence sometimes comes increased temptation and peer pressure. Don’t be embarrassed to talk with your child about any difficulties and collaborate with the school to provide updates, along with checking to see what resources may be available. Get outside professionals, such as medical personnel or counselors involved, whenever necessary. Your EAP program is also an excellent benefit.
#8. Have them get involved in at least one structured activity (team sport, chess club, school council, etc). This will help them meet new people, expose them to adults who can be influential mentors, teach them new skills (or improve existing ones), and foster school pride.
#9. Finally, it’s critical that your child knows that they can come to you with anything that may be going on in their life. Even though it may seem like some teens don’t listen or care, they really do value your opinions and how you treat them. Say “I love you” and “I believe in you” often. That doesn’t mean you discontinue being a parent, including getting to know their friends, holding your child accountable for their actions, and doling out disciplinary action, but make sure they know that you’re there for them whenever they need you.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any advice for someone entering high school? What was your experience like and do you have any personal stories you are willing to share? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
Jeremy joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of management/leadership roles with another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music, and spending time with his wife and daughters.