Helping Your Teen Get Ready for High School

As your child starts high school, getting from science class to the gym won’t be his or her only challenge. In fact, soon-to-be high school freshmen may have a ton of concerns. For example:

•Will they be in classes with friends?
•Will they have trouble finding their way around the school?
•Will classes be too hard?
•What if they don’t fit in or can’t make new friends?
Fear of the unknown can cause stress and take your child’s focus away from the positive experiences high school has to offer. Here are ways you can help your child take that big step.

Preparing for high school
By helping your child prepare, you can help ensure that the first day of high school is a positive experience.

•Be enthusiastic. Focus on all the fun things there are to do in high school, such as sports and activities that your child wants to try.
•Attend freshman orientation. Your child, no doubt, has a lot of worries about what the first day will be like. Finding the homeroom ahead of time, learning where classes will be and comparing schedules with friends can help your child relieve many of those worries.
•Help choose courses. Ask your child what elective classes seem interesting and help choose the ones that will help develop a skill or advance your child academically.
•Instill confidence. Talk with your child about all his or her positive qualities and talents. Help your child know that he or she has a lot to offer the school and shouldn’t simply blend into the background.
•Encourage a healthy sleep schedule. As summer winds down, encourage your child to start going to bed earlier each night and waking up earlier in the morning. Kids should try to get at least nine hours of sleep each night.
•Let your child choose his or her own wardrobe. There’s no need to spend a fortune, but help your child feel he or she will fit in by letting your child choose clothes that are in fashion.
Continuing support once high school starts
Once your freshman has a few days under his or her belt, chances are getting from one class to another or finding the cafeteria will be no problem. But for a successful school year, your child will need more than a school map. Offer these pointers for long-term success:

•Help your child have realistic expectations. It’s rare for a young teenager to be an instant high-school success. Tell your high school freshman not to try to do too much too soon so he or she does not feel unnecessary pressure.
•Explain the importance of attendance and involvement. Let your child know how being absent can affect grades, and that engaging in school activities will help him or her feel involved and make new friends.
•Encourage good study habits. Explain that high school teachers might expect more than eighth-grade teachers did. Help your child learn how to stay organized, and find a quiet place where he or she can study without distractions.
•Talk about friends. Encourage your child to gravitate towards those who share his or her interests and values. And encourage your child to choose his or her friends rather than waiting to be chosen.
•Help your child learn how to manage time. Have conversations with your child about balancing homework, extracurricular activities and downtime. Don’t let your child get overbooked. Suggest he or she choose one or two extracurricular activities instead of four or five. And make sure your child has time just to relax.
•Reassure your child that help is always available. If your child is struggling with a class, he or she might benefit from an after school homework club. Some schools even offer tutoring by members of the National Honor Society. If he or she is being bullied, a guidance counselor can help. Reassure your child that counselors are trained to resolve such conflicts.
Depression in ninth-graders
Research shows that ninth-graders are more prone to depression than their eighth-grade counterparts. They are also more likely to drop out or be retained in their freshman year than in the upper grades.

If you see signs of depression, have your child talk to a school counselor or a mental health professional. Symptoms include:

•Trouble sleeping
•Changes in eating habits
•Headaches and stomachaches
•School avoidance
•Lack of interest in activities he or she once enjoyed
Finally, let your child know that he or she is not alone. Most of your child’s classmates are facing the exact same challenges. As your child learns his or her way around, makes new friends and gets to know the teachers, school will likely start feeling like a familiar and comfortable place.

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