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6-Point Checklist for Parents of Incoming 9th Graders
If you’re the parent of a rising 9th grader, you’re probably experiencing some mixed emotions. There’s no doubt a lot of excitement—your child is starting high school, which is a new chapter representing all kinds of new responsibilities and independence. At the same time, you’re stepping back, allowing your teen to take more ownership of his or her choices, and you’re likely feeling a little bit melancholy at the thought of your teen becoming an adult.
Meanwhile, your teen is probably on a roller coaster of emotions too. He or she is experiencing the same excitement as you, probably mixed with a good amount of nervousness too. Luckily, there are some things that you and your rising 9th grader can do together to make sure that the year starts off smoothly and that your teen has a successful, well-rounded start to high school. Here are six things you can do to get started.
1. Get to Know Your Child’s Teachers and Counselors
Many parents believe that after the elementary and middle school years, the parent-teacher relationships end. This doesn’t have to be true, though. Supportive parent-teacher relationships lead to better communication, clearer expectations, and an earlier recognition of any emerging struggles.
You can jumpstart this relationship by attending open houses and back-to-school night. Make a point of introducing yourself and letting the teacher know that you welcome his or her feedback, both praise and constructive criticism. You can then set the precedent by following up with an email, thanking the teacher for the information you received and opening a conversation about supporting your child. Although teachers are some of the busiest people around, you’ll find that most are more than happy to work with parents who want to engage in this type of working relationship.
The same goes for your child’s guidance counselor. Make a point of contacting him or her early in the year, introducing yourself, and inviting feedback. In general, teachers and counselors alike will be more likely to stay closely in touch with parents who initiate early and regular check-ins.
2. Set Specific Goals For the Year
This is something you’ll need to do with your teen, and it’s a conversation that should ideally begin over the summer. It’s likely that going into high school, your teen has lots of long term visions. Maybe he or she wants to play varsity lacrosse. Maybe your teen wants to land a lead role in the spring musical. Or perhaps your child wants to go to the state science fair. These are great goals, but they are long term and probably won’t happen until later in your child’s high school career.
You can help by initiating a conversation about the steps your teen will need to take to reach these goals. Break down the long term dreams into smaller, achievable steps, so that your teen can start the school year with a game plan.
For example, if your teen hopes to one day go to the state science fair, he or she should take challenging science and math classes. Is there a STEM or STEAM club he or she might be able to join? What kind of school science fairs are offered? These will be great stepping stones towards achieving his or her long term dream.
3. Talk About College
Ninth grade is the perfect time to start talking about college. This doesn’t mean that your teen needs to be studying for the SATs or calling admissions offices just yet. It just means that it’s something that you and your teen should both have in the back of your heads.
One conversation to have is about what kind of college your teen sees him or herself attending. It’s important to realize that choices he or she makes now, as a high school freshman, can have ramifications on his or her college opportunities.
For example, if your teen wants to attend a selective college, he or she will need to take challenging classes in high school, and getting on the right track from the beginning will be crucial. Not fulfilling entry level prerequisites for upper level classes might close doors in the future.
Encourage your teen to also have this conversation with his or her guidance counselor. It’s never too early to think about college choices, if you want to keep all doors open.
4. Contribute to a College Savings Account
In the ideal world, college savings accounts are started when your child is still a baby, but we realize that this isn’t the reality for many families. If you’ve already started a college savings account, don’t let up now, and if you haven’t started saving for your child’s college costs, now is a great time to begin. Even minimal contributions will add up and could be used to defray housing, books, and other costs associated with going to college. Every little bit will help.
To learn more about saving for college, check out these posts:
5. Provide Structure
Your teen is probably feeling pretty grown up at this point, but don’t be fooled—he or she still needs you to be a parent. Providing structure is reassuring for your teen and beneficial in other ways too. For example, establishing a protocol around homework ensures that your teen understands your expectations and will eventually fall into a routine. The idea is that when you remove the structure during later high school years, he or she will continue to thrive, using the routine that you provided.
In addition, many teens still need some support with things like healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and practicing good mental health. Your teen has a lot going on as he or she starts high school, and these basic needs might fall to the wayside as he or she gets caught up in the excitement of starting a new school.
You can help by making sure that there are healthy food options at home, establishing clear expectations with regards to curfews and getting enough sleep, and frequently checking in about how your teen is adjusting and feeling about all the changes he or she is going through. Don’t be fooled by the tough exterior—your teen still needs (and wants you) in his or her life.
6. Foster Independence
At the same time, though, it won’t be long before your teen becomes an adult, and it’s your job to make sure that he or she has all the tools he or she needs to be successful in the real world. This often means teaching basic life skills, like cooking and laundry, alongside more complex skills like budgeting and organization.
Over the next few years, your teen should develop some basic financial independence by earning money and setting a budget to save for things he or she wants. To learn more about establishing financial sense, see our posts What Are The Best Financial Tips for a High School Student? and How to Start Building a Credit Score While You’re Still in High School.
In addition, you can help your teen to develop strong organizational and time management skills. As a teen, the part of the brain that governs executive function is still developing. This means that you will need to help nurture these skills as they emerge. Providing family calendars, setting up apps to help with remembering deadlines and commitments, and creating a specific place in the house for homework and school-home communications can all help create routines that assist your teen.
For more tips, check out our post, Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School.
Parenting a high schooler might seem like an intimidating prospect, but if you think of your role as a supporting player, nurturing your teen towards independence and giving him or her the tools he or she needs for success, you’ll be starting off the high school years on the right foot.
For more advice about starting high school off right and long-term college planning, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from course selection and extracurriculars to college applications and career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more information about parenting a college bound teen, check out these posts:
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