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Survival Guide for New High School Freshmen (and Their Parents)

Patch offers tips and ideas for teens and parents as they prepare for the first day of high school.

If your teen is gearing up to start his or her freshman year in high school, you’ll be glad to know that while you're both in for some big changes, you will both survive--and ideally, you'll be better for it in the end.

Last year, when my oldest son started his high school journey, I was afraid that he’d be too overwhelmed by the maze of hallways on the school's large campus, the variety and location of his classes and the mix of older, adult-sized students he’d be dealing with each day.

The good news is that we’ve both survived this far, and so will you. Here are a few tips I learned along the way that might make that transition a little easier for all involved.

Abolish Anxieties With Information and Support

If your son or daughter is having anxiety or fear about starting high school, he or she isn’t alone.  The best thing you can do as a parent is to listen to those concerns and offer genuine support. Just saying “don’t worry about it” or “everything will be fine” doesn’t help; he's likely to feel like you've discounted his feelings.  Instead, listen to what he has to say and try to help him come up with workable solutions and coping mechanisms.  

Tip: If you’re the one with anxieties, do your research. Talk to your child’s teachers and/or guidance counselor and get answers to your questions. Being informed is often the best remedy for worrying.

Avoid Drama With Preparation and Planning

Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter. When your kid gets her shiny new high school schedule in the mail, look over it carefully and make sure there’s nothing out of place. If there are mistakes, take the time to get them resolved before school starts so she’s not standing in line and missing classes on the first day of school.

Tip: The same thing goes for required immunizations and school supplies—take care of all of the “little things” before school starts to ensure a smooth first day.

Attend Back to School Events

While your student might feel that these events are unnecessary, they can actually be really helpful during the transition to high school, which can seem overwhelming to many freshmen.

Tip: Attending freshman orientation gives students an opportunity to take a dry-run through their schedules to find all of their classes—plus they can meet their teachers and find out which of their friends are in their classes. This kind of preparation can make all the difference on that scary first day.

Don’t Stress Over Style

You might think this is a bit materialistic, but a teen’s appearance matters in high school. The truth is that high school students can be a bit judgmental, to put it mildly. Your student likely has developed a certain sense of style by now, and it’s more important than ever that he has what he needs to maintain it. You don’t need to break the bank, but do make sure to outfit your freshman with an appropriate amount of clothing and accessories in his preferred style.  

Tip: If you need to save a few bucks, check out some of our great thrift stores like the in Wentzville or MERS Goodwill in Lake Saint Louis.  I have also found really great deals on eBay for back-to-school clothes. Do whatever you can to help your kid feel confident and avoid being singled out in a negative way—it matters more than you realize.

Get Involved

Don’t expect your kid to jump for joy when you tell her you’ll be manning the photo booth at the PTA Carnival, but understand that she will (secretly) appreciate your involvement. While she might not actually speak to you much as you do your duty, she will know that you care enough about her to be there. And so will her teachers and counselors.

Tip: If you can’t spare time, try to support your high schooler in other ways—purchase fundraiser items and help sell them at work, supply drinks or snacks for classroom events or just show up to band concerts and football games on a regular basis. Anything you can do to show your kids that you’re interested in and supportive of their education goes a long way toward maintaining that strong bond you’ve always had.

Prepare for the Future

Getting ready for the future starts in high school. Freshmen need to be concerned about their grades from day one, because now is the time that they can begin to build their college resumes. Not only should they focus on their academics, but they should also get involved in extracurricular activities and take note of the requirements for community service that most area schools have these days. 

Tip: It’s also a good time to start thinking about which colleges they might want to attend and to begin to work toward fulfilling the admission requirements. Awareness and planning ahead can make all the difference in your student’s future success.

Relax a Little

Your teen is about to start a journey that neither of you will ever forget. So, while you should hold your ground on things that are important for their development, high school is a good time to give your child a little more freedom. Do it in small increments, of course, but make a point of loosening those reins a little.

Tip: It’s also important to teach kids basic life skills, if you haven’t already, including things such as how to do laundry and dishes, how to cook and how to manage their own money. After all, in a few short years, your baby will be stepping out into the “real world” to start her own life. Give her the best start possible by helping her learn the things she needs to know to survive and thrive.

What are your best tips for surviving the first year of high school? Share them with the community in the comments section, below!

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