For most high school graduates, high school brings back fond memories. Starting high school, however, can be an overwhelming experience, according to LSU AgCenter 4-H youth development expert Dr. Janet Fox. It is different in so many ways from middle school or junior high school.
“High school is a time of struggling with personal identity, fitting into a social group, handling peer pressure, striving to do well academically, enjoying new freedoms that come with driving and working and planning a career,” Fox says, adding, “Choices students make in high school can have lifelong consequences.”
Because of this struggle, students need direction and guidance from their teachers, counselors and, most of all, from their parents. Fox says parents can provide support and guidance by acknowledging the transition, promoting the importance of education, carefully selecting the high school and a program of study, understanding the roles of peers and keeping the lines of communication open.
– Acknowledge the transition. Parents can assist their teens with the transition by keeping informed and offering guidance and support. Many resources are available to teens with problems. Parents can promote positive involvement with academics, peers and activities.
If the teens are feeling pressure to do something they know is wrong, parents should talk to them or encourage them to talk a friend, another parent or counselor to find a solution. If they’re struggling academically, parents should help them find a tutor or someone to help them improve. If they’re socially isolated, parents should encourage them to join a school club or group to make new friends.
– Promote the significance of education. Studies show that when education is promoted and supported by parents, students achieve more. Although teens are moving away from their parents’ influence at this time, they still need guidance from their parents in making crucial educational decisions.
– Select a high school and curriculum carefully. Most schools offer courses in honors, advanced placement, special education, remedial and a variety of electives both academic and vocational. Students can tailor their course selections to individual needs, goals, abilities and interests.
The selection process should actively involve both you and your child.
A visit to the school or program prior to enrollment is invaluable. Not only will your student get an important lay of the land, you and your child can meet with school personnel such as a school counselor who can talk about the many available options.
Once you’ve enrolled your child, follow his or her study habits, interests and performance. Unlike many elementary and middle schools, high school grade-point averages are cumulative. Because of this, it’s important to stress that grades students earn as a freshmen are as important as any other year.
Stay in contact with your child's teachers and school counselors to help your child stay on track. Learn about curriculum options and graduation requirements. Start thinking about post-secondary education.
Choose electives with long-term goals in mind. Listen carefully to your teen’s interests, remain supportive and objective, and don’t impose your personal interests on the decision.
– Understand the role of peers. Parents of preteen or middle school students already are aware of the influence of peers. Some kids go contrary to their parents’ beliefs just to be accepted by their peers. It’s important not to underestimate the strength of peer pressure.
The good news is that peer pressure also can be a positive influence in keeping grades up, staying away from drugs and alcohol and becoming active in youth organizations. The peer group your child has in high school may shape your son’s or daughter's success in school and in early adulthood. To keep your child engaged constructively, involve him or her in positive school and out-of-school activities.
Communication with your child during the teen years may be more crucial than ever, Fox says. Parents can serve as positive models for their teens by remaining a constant in their evolving lives. High school may seem rather daunting at first, but, with time, it will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will open the door to your child’s independence.
Editor: Mark Claesgens