If your child is ready to start high school, this can be an exciting time for the family. It’s time for your child to break out into the world and shine. However, the challenges that starting high school presents can also make this period unsettling for your child, and perhaps for you as well. Homeschooling is a great option for parents who want more control over what their child is exposed to, but homeschooling can be challenging, too, and not every parent is able to go down this route.
If you’ve decided that a traditional public school is best for your child or a hybrid (one of ours is doing a charter online with an agricultural focus), there will be big changes. Even if you are homeschooling, high school brings changes. Maybe your child is dual-enrolled in some college courses or is involved in more extra-curricular activities. These tips will help you be there for your child when they start high school and give them the tools to manage this exciting transition effectively.
Visit The New School
There is nothing as frightening as the unknown. One of the best ways to ensure that your child feels calm and ready for their first day is to visit the school with them beforehand. Most high schools host open days during which new kids can get to know their new surroundings and absorb a little of the school’s atmosphere. A private school is even more likely to encourage a pre-term visit and may be able to arrange meetings for you and your child with various teachers or school staff at your request if you call ahead. A visit to the school won’t ensure that your child will remember where everything is on the first day, but they will at least know the lay of the land, and perhaps recognize a few friendly faces among the staff.
Prepare For Day One
Day one of high school brings profound change to a child’s sense of perspective. If coming from homeschool, nearly everything will be different. If your child had been attending public school for middle school, they will feel like they’ve moved from being a big fish in a little pond. Now, your child will quickly become a little fish in a big pond. From the moment they set foot in the high school environment, they will have new opportunities to demonstrate independence. At the same time, this can leave them feeling a little unsure of themselves. Day one can be especially daunting, as this realization sinks in. Children will want to show that they are independent from the outset, so they will most likely balk at the idea of you walking them to the school gates. However, they may be feeling nervous and would appreciate some backup. Ideally, try to organize for your child to travel to school with an older sibling or friend to give them a little support on their first day.
Every parent of school children knows this conversation: “Hey, how was school?” “Fine.” “What did you learn?” “Not much.” It’s true that children are often tired after school. However, the lack of interest in these conversations often comes from the child’s assumption that their parent either won’t understand what their day was like, or won’t be interested. From day one of high school, it’s crucial that you demonstrate to your child that you genuinely want to hear about their day. Create a judgment-free space by treating all information they offer up as equally interesting and important. For example, if they want to talk about a tricky situation among their friends, let them have their say. Ask follow up questions, and try to understand the situation. Who knows—after that chat’s finished, they might start telling you what they learned in Science class.
Be a Source of Encouragement and Praise
When children get into the swing of things at high school and become more independent, you may start to feel as if your role as a parent is diminishing. While it is important to back off a little and let your child thrive in their new independent role, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your role as a parent is over. It has merely changed. You’re just as important to your child as ever, especially during the transition phase of starting high school. They will encounter many challenges along the way—both school-related and socially—and while you’re not there to fight their battles for them, you can be a source of unfailing encouragement and praise. Not only will they feel that they always have someone in their corner, but they will be more resilient to change and build self-esteem.
One of the most exciting and potentially frightening things that adolescence brings is natural changes to the body. Prepare your child for this phase by letting them know that the body is nothing to be afraid of. Everyone goes through this transition, and they should feel proud, if anything, to be advancing into adulthood. Help them embrace these changes by encouraging them to dress to their new shape, practice good hygiene, and giving them all the privacy they need to explore and appreciate their bodies. Encourage them to treat other children experiencing this transition with kindness and understanding. Some children experience physical changes at a faster or slower rate than others, and if your child is among these groups, the transition can be especially hard, so you’ll need to offer extra reassurance that it’s okay to do things in their own time.
Give Your Child Space
Let’s face it: high school means longer days, challenging classwork, new friends and extra excitement after class. You will probably miss your children even more than you did when they were at elementary school. While it may be tempting to want to cram in loads of quality time with your child in the evenings and at weekends, it’s important to acknowledge and respect that teenagers need time for themselves, too. We all do! If your child withdraws for an hour or two, don’t panic or put pressure on them to socialize. They need to decompress after the hard work and social interactions, and it’s natural to want to relax and enjoy their own company. Just be there for them when they need you.
Whether it’s your first-born or your fifth child to start high school, the transition can be tricky for all involved. These tips will help you equip your child for the excitement and challenges that lie ahead.