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Essential Advice for New High School Parents
There’s no question that high school is overwhelming for kids — but it’s also overwhelming for parents, especially ones who haven’t had kids in high school before. For some, the beginning of high school may also signal the beginning of the end — it is a reminder that, soon, your little ones will be all grown up and leaving the nest.
Luckily, you still have 4 more years to build upon your relationship with them and set a positive example for when they become an adult. High school is the time for growth and maturity; it’s also the time for awkwardness, mistakes, and growing pains.
Parents can be quite a helpful resource for teenagers during this tumultuous time (although this isn’t to say it’s easy dealing with a teenager — trust us, we know, it isn’t). Though it may feel frustrating and overwhelming at times, high school parenting is all about trial and error.
If you are a new high school parent, keep reading for some important advice!
While you might have helped your kid with academics in elementary or middle school, now is the time for them to take the reins and to prepare for the demanding workload of college and “the Real World.”
It might be difficult at first, but you should learn to walk the line between encouraging your kid to work hard and forcing them to. If you’re too controlling over their academic life, they’ll come to resent you for being too controlling, and they will likely get little enjoyment out of it themselves. They might even try to rebel against you by not doing their work, which is the last thing that either of you will want.
The same thing goes for extracurriculars — you can encourage your kid to join clubs and activities, but don’t sign them up yourself or pack their schedule without permission —ultimately, it’s their choice how they choose to spend their time, and it’s important that they take initiative in the early high school years.
In general, everyone’s parenting strategy will be different. Some parents are more hands-on, and others prefer to be more laid back — it really depends on the parent and the child. We are not encouraging you to throw caution to the wind by encouraging your child’s independence. Rather, we feel that it’s important to think about ways that you can begin to ease off of your child and encourage them to take their own future into their hands. They will surely thank you for it in adulthood!
For more tips on handling academics in high school, take a look at our blog posts for parents:
Ease Into Talking About College
It’s well known that once 9th grade begins, the college pressure is on for high school students. You don’t want to add to your child’s stress, but you should be thinking and planning for college early on — even if that just means talking about whether or not your child wants to attend college or encouraging them to work hard during their 9th grade year (for a more in depth explanation, take a look at Parents: Why Freshman Year GPAs Matter).
For a better idea of when and how you should be talking about college with your kid, check out What is the Ideal Timeline for the College Application Process? and
The general gist of things is that you should encourage your child to think about the future, but be sure to listen to them and their needs, and to check your own expectations regarding college. A good way to ease into talking about college might be to ask your child what their dream job is or what they would ultimately like to do later in life. These conversations can help you get started talking about career paths, degrees, potential majors or programs in college, and more!
Establish Boundaries and Respect Privacy
High school means new frontiers socially, and you might encounter issues with your child that you haven’t before. Issues of peer pressure as well as sex, drugs, and drinking may come up, and you should be prepared to talk to your child and to establish clear boundaries with them. These issues might be especially pertinent around certain events at high school, such as at football games, homecoming, or prom.
It is a good idea to establish clear rules once high school begins. These rules will be different for every family, but you should certainly establish some cut-and-dry rules for your child’s safety (like never driving while intoxicated or getting in the car with someone who is intoxicated, and never engaging in sexual contact with someone without their consent).
It is illegal for high schoolers to drink or use drugs, but this doesn’t stop it from happening. If you’re comfortable, you should consider talking to your child about peer pressure as well as giving them important information about drugs and alcohol. For example, the difference between a glass of wine and a shot of liquor, the likelihood of drugs like marijuana being laced with other more harmful substances, or the consequences that can come from being caught for underage drinking.
These conversations may be uncomfortable, but the information in them can often save lives (and, conversely, kids can often get themselves into trouble by listening to information from other sources —like other high schoolers, for example, who may not know what they are talking about—if they do not feel comfortable talking to their parents). The same goes for talking about sex, especially in relation to risks of pregnancy, STIs/STDs, and questions of consent.
Try to have an open dialogue and allow them to ask any questions they may have. If you feel comfortable, you might also talk to your kid about your own experiences and mistakes in order to let them know that you, too, are fallible, but that they should also try to avoid making the same mistakes themselves.
Be sure to respect your child’s privacy the best you can— obviously, there are exceptions if you are directly worried for their safety or another person’s safety. As a rule of thumb, you should try to get information directly from your child by asking questions and having a safe, open, and non-judgmental dialogue.
It’s important to establish yourself as someone that your high schooler can confide in during their high school years. This goes deeper than just asking them about their day — be sure to ask them about their hopes, their dreams, and their fears.
This type of trust and communication might be difficult to build at first, but by remaining persistent, non judgemental, and kind, your child will (hopefully) come to trust you eventually and a deeper and more fulfilling relationship will be the result.
Be Ready to Adapt!
Finally, while these tips might seem simple, we are sorry to tell you that life with a high schooler is far from simple. As your child grows and changes, their needs will grow and change as well. There are bound to be new, unexpected issues and questions that crop up, and you should be prepared to answer to them.
Your child is growing into a young adult, and they may come to surprise you. While we can’t tell you exactly what to do, we can tell you that there are very few things a loving and caring parent can’t tackle without a little patience and adaptability.
When you are raising a high schooler, it is important to emphasize responsibility and communication with them. Be compassionate and willing to listen, but also be sure to establish clear boundaries and rules within your household. Be willing to communicate and adapt to your child’s needs, and keep in mind that there may be plenty of surprises along the way.
You’ve got a wild ride ahead of you, and it’s sure to be filled with laughter, joy, tears, anger, confusion, and hope. After all, that’s what adolescence is all about!
For more advice on high school parenting, here is a CollegeVine web page full of tips for parents.
And be sure to check out these blog posts: