A 13-year-old's words of wisdom
An experienced teenager offers advice to parents on how they can make the transition to high school a little easier on their kids
This time last year, I was heading off to a big, new place: high school. I knew then that it was going to be a challenge for me and my parents. So many things would be different, from teachers, classes and friends to my responsibilities and my parents' expectations. Now, with a full year of high school behind me, I would like to give my perspective on what parents can do to help their kids with this transition.
- Young people are aware that high school is drastically different from elementary school and we may be worried, excited, scared or have some combination of all of these emotions. While we all know that the first day of high school is important, try not to make a HUGE deal about it. Talking might calm you down, but there is a good chance it could overwhelm your child. Instead consider a small gesture to show you are there for them: a fun binder, a cool new shirt or some homemade cookies to take on the first day. And resist the impulse to make everything easier for them; ultimately they need to get through this on their own.
- If your kid comes home with a note from the teacher saying they did something wrong, try not to get mad at them — they have probably already beaten themselves up about it. Instead, let them know that you understand these things happen. If it becomes a common occurrence, discuss ways to prevent this from happening again.
- Everybody is tired after a long, hard day at school. Your kids need anywhere from a half-hour to an hour of freedom and down time before starting to do homework.
- Speaking of homework… Though we know you want to help us stay on top of our course load, getting too involved may mean you are more likely to start an argument than actually help us with the task at hand. If your kid seems overwhelmed, suggest he or she lists the assignments on a paper, in order of priority. You may find your kids are more disciplined than you originally thought. And if not, help them with a plan at the beginning of the year and then leave them to it.
- Every kid is different, so take this into consideration when giving advice. For example, some kids may need reminders from parents about homework but this tends to stress me out. Therefore, my parents have learned to let me manage my own course work.
- Try to avoid all those lectures about how we should have done our homework earlier, better or in a more organized way. As much as you may want to pass on all your accumulated life experience, your kids will eventually stop listening to you. After all, who wants to listen to someone rant on and on?
- As much as possible, try not to make your kids feel bad about school-related difficulties. Staying up until midnight working on a math project isn’t something they enjoy either. Patience will certainly get you farther when it comes to both your relationship with your kids and their own ability to get their work done.
- As a rule, kids don’t tend to be terribly receptive to advice unless they ask for it. You may have been through a lot over the years, but they need to “earn” that experience themselves through trial and error. Though it may be hard to watch, kids need to make their own mistakes to figure stuff out.
After all, you can’t expect your children to grow up to be disciplined, creative critical thinkers if they just blindly follow all the advice they get as a kid. Think for a second, how did you earn your experience? I doubt it was by doing everything your parents told you to.
Finally, listen to your kids when they talk, even if it’s just about hockey or a game they are playing, and not big issues like schoolwork. We may not always act like it, but we like to know you are there when we need you.