Parents are experts at worrying about their kids. It comes as no surprise, then, that parents of rising 9th graders tend to be focused more on their soon-to-be-high schoolers than themselves. Will he transition well? Will he make new friends? Will he remember to bring home his smelly gym clothes for washing? But while parents may worry about their rising high schoolers, there are also a few things to keep in mind for themselves.
- Begin to let go. As your child progresses through high school, your teenager will be more open to your guidance if he feels that you trust him with small details of his life – what clothes to wear, how his hair is styled, and what music he listens to. Let your teen have autonomy over the smaller decisions whenever possible.
- Identify and communicate limits now. Start conversations early about things like drugs, alcohol, consent, peer pressure and suicidal ideation. Let your high schooler know your expectations and the potential consequences of different choices. Discuss your requirements for things like involvement in extracurriculars, what grades you expect, curfew and social media use. Clear and early communication makes things easier for your teenager.
- Require your child to join a club or activity. Your child is about to become a little fish in a big pond where it can be easy to feel disconnected – especially if your child is on the more reserved side. Encourage your teenager to join a school sport, fine arts group or club. It will give him a way to make friends, connect with adult leaders, stay active and develop an identity outside of the classroom and home.
- Don’t stress about the first report card. The start of school is a time for ninth graders to adjust to high school, figure out their new routines and learn how their teachers will grade. The second report card will typically bring an improvement. One caveat: if grades are extremely low, that warrants teacher meetings to determine the cause.
- Stay involved. Go to orientation, meet your child’s teachers to understand their expectations, volunteer to help clubs, and get to know the school personnel. It can also be a good idea to check any online homework portals weekly. By being involved, you will be more likely to be able to sort out small issues before they become big problems.
- Teach time management and how to establish routines. Don’t assume that your child’s middle school routine will work for high school or that your teenager will figure it all out himself. At this developmental stage, your child needs help determining the system that will work best for him. Will he do best with one planner or multiple? Paper or digital? You may need to help him establish habits like where and when to study, how electronics will be used or where his phone will be kept during homework time.
- Keep communication lines open. Big kids can make bigger decisions, which can carry bigger consequences. Don’t assume that your teenager has it all handled – check in regularly and create moments for communication. When you do talk, make a point to stay open and listen to his words and his body language. Take a light touch in your conversations and keep in mind that the end goal is connection and a relationship built on trust.
- Don’t do too much. It’s important to begin to hand over the reins and make sure your child has the skills necessary to go off on his own. Encourage him to advocate for himself with teachers and others, to ask questions in class and to attend before or after school tutoring sessions.
High school can be a confusing time for both parents and kids. Teenagers can seem so grown up and then, just minutes later, so young and immature. High Schoolers still need their parents, even when they adamantly say they don’t. As your teenager enters high school, help him adjust by staying informed and available as a caring, loving parent.
Aliiison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education. You can also catch her talking about articles from Austin Family magazine each Thursday morning on FOX 7 Austin.