Starting high school can be a very daunting experience for both parents and teens. People prepare for and handle the experience in different ways. High school is a different machine and I believe it is important to prepare your child for high school.
Lots of new faces:
Kids are leaving their comfort zone (elementary school) and being thrown into a big new school with hundreds (if not thousands) of new faces. At first this will be very scary. No one likes to go somewhere new and be surrounded by strangers. It is important to remember that everyone in grade 9 is in the same boat. Everyone is looking around and wondering how they will fit into this new, strange world. High school is a great opportunity to meet new people and make friends that will last a lifetime.
High schools are semestered and there is a lot of work to be covered in a short amount of time. It may take some students a while to adjust to the new structure, while others will thrive right away. The students learn a great deal of material everyday and are expected to review and study every night. The onus is on the student to catch up on any missed work and assignments. In grade 9, the students are also introduced to exams. Exams can be a scary beast but I find teachers are great at helping the kids prepare for them.
The main thing I found when my son started high school was the new found freedom. He no longer needed a note from me to leave school grounds at lunch time. He did not need a note from me to miss a class. He was allowed to pick elective classes that appealed to him. The course schedule was flexible to an extent. He could select the academic stream that he wanted to purse (although his father and I vetoed his choice).
Following are the lessons I learned when my son started high school last year and some recommendations:
- Communicate with your child about their feelings and fears. My son was not very nervous about starting high school yet my daughter is already talking about it and she is going into grade 8. Talk to your kids. Are they nervous about the transition? Are they nervous about fitting in? Are there any friends they can go to school with on the first day? My son walked to school on the first day with a bunch of friends and that really helped. If your child takes the bus to school, can you drive them on the first day? Your child may really appreciate the quiet time with you in the car.
- Talk to your teen when they come home the first day of school. Sit down with your child and ask how their day went. My son had a lot to share and it was really nice hearing about his day and what he thought of the experience. Take a look at their course schedule and ask questions about their classes. Your child will be more willing to share throughout the year if they feel you are interested in what they have to say.
- Talk to your child about drugs and smoking. When I asked my son about drugs at school, I was shocked to hear him say that he knew where the drug dealers hung out and that getting drugs (if one wanted to) was easy. Needless to say this shocked me! He assured me that he would never do that but I was still shocked.
- Get involved in sports and clubs at school. A huge plus for my son was getting involved in sports at school. My son was selected for the basketball team and I noticed right away the positive things that followed. He felt like he belonged to a group at school, a group of boys that shared the same interest. He loved getting up for 7 am practices and made a bunch of new friends that shared his interest in sports. The older boys in grade 10 took the younger ones under their wing and became mentors to their younger team members.
Entering high school is a very exciting time for both the teen and their family. It is the start of an wonderful journey that will be full of memories. As scary as the start of the school year may feel right now, I am certain the feeling will pass quickly and you will wonder what the fuss was all about.