In about six weeks a number of students will be starting their first year in high school. Parents this is a good time to think back to your first day of high school and how you felt and what you were expecting. This can help you relate to some of the feelings your teenager is having and help you when you talk to them about starting high school. Hopefully this article will be able to provide some tips to make it an easy transition for your teenager and for you.
One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors pick on and tease the freshman students. Another common fear for freshman is that they are going to get lost on the campus and not be able to find their classrooms. Your teenagers are at a point in their life where their image and reputation are very important to them. Therefore the idea of being teased by the seniors or getting lost on the campus can be very stressful and also create a great deal of anxiety for a student starting high school.
As parents, you can talk to your teenagers about your first days days at high school and reassure them that the stories they hear about Freshmen being targets for the seniors are greatly exaggerated. Also you can try to go with them over to the school before it starts and walk around the campus so they can get use to where everything is at their new school. Another thing you can do is remind them that everyone makes mistakes so if they do get lost the first day it is not a big deal. Remind them there will be a lot of other kids starting their first day of school too and there will be other kids getting lost. This is also another opportunity to continue to establish an open relationship with your teenager. The more you talk with each other you increase the likelihood that they feel comfortable coming and talking to you about issues they will have while in high school.
Another issue facing some students is starting all over. In middle school they may have been very popular and everyone knew them. Now no one knows them and they need to start all over. This may be frightening to them, but remind them there will be many times in life when they will need to start as the new person. Also remind them, if they were able to do it in middle school, they can do it in high school too. However, encourage them to have faith and be patient because it won’t happen over night. Now for many students middle school was a nightmare. They may be looking forward to starting over. Again remind them if they have the desire to try they can do it, but also to be patient because it may not happen as quickly as they like.
Also before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are regarding grades and after school activities and hanging out with friends. Furthermore, before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are for your teenager regarding grades, homework, after school activities. If you establish an understanding between yourself and your teenager before these situations arise you can save yourself a lot of time arguing with your teenager. However as you establish these guidelines you want to have a conversation with your teenager about these issues. Remember your teenager is starting to enter the adult world, if you simply just tell them these are the rules no matter what they will feel that you are being unfair and they will try to find a way around your rules. If you have a discussion with them about the rules they will feel that their opinions are being respected and they are more likely to feel that the rules are fair and are more likely to follow the rules. It is also a good idea to write a contract with all the things you agreed to. If you write the agreements down and there is a misunderstanding you simply need to refer back to the contract. Also this is another opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your teenager where they feel comfortable enough to come to you and discuss any problems they may be having. You are also role modeling to them how to have an adult discussion and how to negotiate fairly and respectfully with other their people.
Of course you also want to take this opportunity to discuss with your teenager the fact that they are going to be faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex. This is a good time to provide them with the education they will need in order to cope with these situations. Remind them that information they may receive from their friends may not always be accurate. Furthermore, encourage them that at any time if they have any questions or concerns regarding these matters or any other matters you are always there to listen and to talk with them.
One thing to remember is acronym HALT. I teach this often with anger management, but it helps with communication too.
H – hunger
A – anger
L – lonely
T – tired
If either one of you are having these feelings, it is generally not a good time to have a discussion. Also if either one of you is feeling like this and you may not be listening to each other. Therefore, if either one of you are having these feelings or don’t feel like talking, then it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are both ready to talk.
Lastly, remind them that they are starting a brand-new phase in their life and it is normal to feel anxious and stress. Also remind them that these feelings are normal in the beginning but they usually quickly disappear after they have started school.
A few things you can do on the first day of classes to help with any anxiety are you can get up in the morning with them and have breakfast with them before they go to school. You can also put a note of encouragement in their backpack that they will find when they are at school and this can help reassure them and remind them how much support they have at home. Finally, you can arrange to be at home when when they get home from their first day of high school so you can talk about it with them. Also plan to have a family dinner to discuss everyone’s first day of school and offer encouragement where needed. These are just a few ideas to help with the transition process.
Dr. Rubino has a private practice in Pleasant Hill and specializes in working with teens. To find out more about the work he has done over 20 years visit his web site at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.