For the most part, high school freshman are immature. Very few 14 year olds know how to be their own advocates. They haven’t yet developed the confidence to speak their needs, and many don’t even know what those needs are. To help them adjust and thrive to a new school and set of expectations, here are four ways to help high school freshman out without overparenting them.
Keep in mind that as your teens grow, you should and will scale back your involvement in their lives. However, as they transition into high school, it’s okay to give support and structure. The trick is to keep a balance between hovering and encouraging independence.
Get on the radar
- E-mail the guidance counselor and introduce yourself. Put yourself on their radar. If your child starts to slip, or if you have concerns, they know your name. Don’t expect much in return; their caseloads are often enormous.
- Go to back to school night, even if you don’t want to and even if your child doesn’t want you to. Know the teachers of each subject, especially the ones you know your child struggles in. Introduce yourself or follow up with a quick e-mail just to let them know that you are involved.
Help your teen be engaged:
- A parent recently told me that his teen daughter is expected to get good grades across the board and be involved in an after school sport. It keeps her engaged, socialized and fit. It also keeps her off a screen and helps account for time she would otherwise likely mishandle. The takeaway: have some expectation for how they spend their time that involves real life.
- If your teen isn’t sporty, hone in on other interests and support them. Some ideas: arts, activism, drama, a school club, community service or community work. Even if it’s a pain to drive him/her around after school, being connected to something other than academics is important for developing the “soft skills” of communication, socialization, and time management.
Establish boundaries and routines:
- Allow them their privacy. Knock and don’t pry. But…
- Check out this primer of all the apps your teen has access to. Establish some boundaries about which ones are okay and which ones are prohibited.
- Establish some code that communicates: I will randomly ask to see your phone. I will check out your profiles. Re-iterate the responsibility and gravity that goes along with technology and check in with them monthly to see how it’s changed.
- Take away handheld devices at night–preferably before 10pm. I’m serious about this one. Even if you are the only parent doing so, for the good of your child’s mental health and sleep schedule, don’t allow her to sleep with her phone! This TED talk explains the relationship between sleep and hormones in teens, and how insanely under-rested they are.
Maintain the connection:
- Even if they have bad attitudes, high school freshman still want their parents’ love and approval. Let the small stuff slide and when they make mistakes, which they inevitably will, summons the grace and patience to turn it into a teachable moment.
- High school can be an amazing transition socially. For many teens, it’s when they find actual friends with common interests. However, it can also be when everyone else finds their people. Be aware that this isolation may be happening.
- Allow them to explore socially and personally, but be clear about how you feel about them hanging out with older kids.
- I wrote this other post about middle schoolers and the same applies here. If you haven’t had the hard, awkward talks about the facts of life, now is the time. Also, it’s a good time to let them know that you are always there to pick them up and keep them safe, no questions asked.
Being a high school freshman is a big transition.The social and academic expectations grow, but developmentally, freshman-aged kids are still immature. These tips mix behind the scenes involvement with implementing clear boundaries and expectations. As the parent, you are still in charge and they still need support. Give teens consistent structure that will help them form habits that allow them to adapt to their growing worlds.