Talk to My Kid about the Transitioning from Middle to High School
Parents can help their eighth graders prepare for a positive middle school transition by getting the right information, and by staying involved with their school. Just talking to your child and answering his high school questions, can help him form realistic expectations about high school and alleviate any fears he may have.
Warning: The dropout rate for ninth graders is much higher than that of other grades. Students also repeat ninth grade at a much higher rate than other grades. That’s why ninth graders in particular need the attention and support of parents to get a firm foothold in high school.
Here are some ideas:
Get help from my kid's school.
Sign up for any and all high school orientation or "walk-through" programs (designed to help freshmen find their lockers and classrooms) and attend them with your child. Ask your middle school counselor or principal what events are planned and what help is available.
Find a peer mentor for my kid.
If your child doesn't have an older sibling, ask a friend's older sibling, an older cousin, or older teen in your neighborhood if they would be willing to answer questions or act as a mentor. Invite them over to your home if your child is shy about contacting them.
Talk to my kid before he/she starts school.
Try some of the conversation starters below, but don’t lecture and don’t tackle the whole topic at once. Even if your child doesn’t respond, it may help her to hear you say some of the things she’s too embarrassed to say.
Tell him/her it’s normal to be both excited and nervous about high school.
Share some of your positive high school memories, like being able to drive to school or staying up all night to work on the homecoming float. Ask your child what he is most looking forward to about high school.
Share some bad or sad memories, like throwing up in study hall or losing the lead in a play to an upperclassman. Ask your child what she’s nervous about. Listen when she tells you and don’t jump in immediately with a “solution” or, worse, don’t dismiss her fears as “silly.”
Explain the difference between middle school and high school academics.
Talk to your child about how your choice of friends affected your high school experience, for better or worse—like the time you swiped your parents’ car to impress an older girlfriend. Talk about how peers affected your decisions about sex, illegal drugs, and other risky activities. Suggest that clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities can be good places to meet new friends who share your child’s values and goals.
Review my kid's organizational and time-management skills.
Share some simple organization or time-management techniques that work for you. Help your child find a system that fits her style or to use the system that her school requires. (For some ideas, adopt the Goal "Teach My Kid Time-Management Skills."
Tell my kid I will come to his/her extracurricular activities.
And then do it. Support his new endeavor in a new school: show up for any extracurricular activities (ballgames, concerts, competitions) your child is involved in. Also, begin to encourage your child's independence by loosening the reins a little (a later curfew, a higher allowance).
Listen to my kid's ideas, even if you don't always agree with them.
If both of you agree that a subject is too touchy to talk about in person (if doing so always ends up in a fight), let him leave you a note explaining how he feels under your pillow, then leave him your response under his pillow.
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