5 Tips for Parents to Help Teens Transition into High School

Aug 20, 2018

Butterflies in the stomach; falsely pasted smiles on faces at send offs; anxiety with the new beginnings. There are feelings without many words when sending a high schooler off to their next four formative years.

For the parents who have been accustomed to the first day of school drop off, the comfy meet your teacher night, the hugs and photos with your student before launching off are experiences left at the doorsteps of elementary and middle schools. The launch into high school is an exciting time for students and parents alike but wrought with anxiety and needs for new family conversations.

Here are some quick tips for parents to help their teens transition into high school.
  1. Help Your Teen Manage New Logistics

    Most new high schoolers find themselves navigating a new campus and a more rigorous academic schedule. Your teen wouldn’t be caught dead having you walk your student from class to class, but planning the logistical part of getting around campus ahead of time is helpful. School tours, campus maps, and visits to counselors can be helpful. If you are able to tour the campus, do so ahead of time and then put your child in charge of giving you a tour with his schedule.

    The good news is that your child is not alone in this transition. There is a whole class of kids in the same position. Find an upperclassman who has weathered this transition before. Let an older buddy give you both the “inside scoop” on campus activities, teachers, study habits, shortcuts to class and even lunch menu items to avoid! 

    Cultivating a good group of buddies is crucial for homework support as well. In the meantime, it’s important for Moms and Dads to cultivate their own group of parent buddies, too, for friendship, logistical support – and for those “other eyes and ears” paying attention to your child.

    New school years and new campuses bring on added stress. Be mindful that you and your teen may feel some stress until the new routine settles in. My mental rule is “on-time for a student is 15 minutes early.” Rushing in the morning puts everyone on edge.
  2. Get Organized

    Find appropriate places for your child to study that is away from distraction and where she can find her materials easily. Many students fall victim to careless ways of recording their assignments and planning out their study and activity schedules. Keep a record of your own about your student’s activities and important due dates. This will help you schedule your own activities while being mindful of how your student may need you to be available and supportive.
  3. Introduce Yourself to the Teachers and Administrators

    Information was more easily obtained in elementary school and even in middle school. If your child was struggling, you might have gotten a personal call or an email. If your child had a special need or celebration, your child’s teacher was likely involved. It’s not that high school teachers don’t care about your child; they have five or six times as many children to care about and details can fall through the cracks. This is also the time when students need to be learning to manage more of their own school affairs. During your family’s transition, avail yourself of whatever online communication the school offers for homework, grades and activities.

    Encourage your student to introduce himself to teachers, administrators and coaches as well. Help them think about utilizing these resources as helpful tools to navigate the school year both academically and socially.
  4. Balance the Good and Bad of Technology

    We compete every day with the wooing nature of technology. And we, as parents, will lose. We struggle with appropriate ways to limit screen time and to avoid negative posts and sites. Talk to your student about how to use technology to help them with their studies and to keep their peers in the loop regarding study support. Review the school’s policy on cell phone usage and stick with those rules as a family.

    As your student is likely not allowed to call or text during school hours, you should not be calling or texting your child during these times either. Cell phones offer the emotional comfort for parent and student to easily get hold of one another in the event of an emergency or change of plans, well within the guidelines of the school, so talk about their proper use ahead of time.

    Evening and weekend use of technology can be helpful in terms of accessing homework, completing assignments and garnering help from classmates. Encourage the use of technology in family spaces rather than in one’s room, and review your child’s usage on a regular basis. Computer safeguards and parental controls are widely available on line, and many families find them helpful. Parental control software, like Net Nanny, helps parents to filter inappropriate content and set screen time limits. Parents can set up user profiles by child and either designate an allotted number of hours a day for internet access or set specific hours’ internet access is not allowed.
  5. Most of All, Listen

    Your high school student child will talk to you but their conversations might be in more “text” form—abbreviated and brief. One-word answers, bad moods, extreme hunger, despondent affect, silly laughter, and health concerns are different ways adolescents “talk” about their day, so practice patience as much as possible. Hold off starting your after-school conversations with the inevitable, “So, how did you do on your test? How much homework do you have?” Learn about your teen’s world, and if staying on task is difficult for them, ask them for ideas as to what they might find helpful to be on time to school, to keep an organized backpack, and to stay on top of homework.

    All that information can come forth after some decompression. In the meantime, listen. Offer to give their friends a ride and listen to them talk. Hear their ideas, goals, worries, and stressors, and you’ll hear your own teen’s mixed in.

High school is a big transition for the whole family. Make up your mind to enjoy the journey. Before long they will be driving (or at least riding along with friends who do) and then will be off to college. Your goals: Getting them to navigate those transitions and life challenges independently and learn to relax into this transition as a family.