I will always remember the day I first set foot in high school. New classmates, intimidating teachers, and hallways that seemed endless, not to mention, a hectic class schedule full of mysterious subjects like chemistry and home economics. To say I felt out of my depth is an understatement. It was a truly scary experience.
The Challenges of High School
Making the jump to high school can be an overwhelming and daunting experience for any teenager (and parent!). While many teens can’t wait to start high school and are excited for new challenges, new friends and more freedom, this transition can also be stressful. Often new high school students report feelings of:
- Confusion about their new school schedule and environment;
- Sadness about leaving their old friends and school behind;
- Anxiety about making new friends;
- Concern they won’t meet their parents’ expectations;
- Nervousness about bullies and older pupils;
- Fear about how much homework they are expected to do;
- Tiredness and fatigue from all the energy used in surviving each day.
If your child is experiencing any of these feelings, it is important to remember that it is completely normal for teenagers going through this stage. As with any significant change, it takes time to adjust and get used to a new environment.
The most important thing parents can do during this time is provide a supportive home environment.
Tips for Parents
- Be supportive and empathetic – Try not to dismiss your child’s fears, no matter how silly they seem. All fears are equally valid. All dismissal will do is teach your child not to approach you with their concerns. Give your child your full attention if they want to talk to you. If they’re worried about making friends, discuss with them how even the most confident children are in the same boat and may be anxious on the inside. If they’re worried about their homework, agree to read over their essays before they submit them.
- In the early days of high school give your child some leeway – Expect some tiredness in your teen at the end of each day. If they are sullen or grumpy, it probably has nothing to do with you, but is more likely to be due to the fact they have had to hold it together all day around strangers and now need some downtime. Cut them slack on the weekends, let them sleep in occasionally. However once they find their feet, you can tighten up household rules again.
- Get into a weekday routine – Children thrive on routine and do better when they get enough sleep, have meals at regular times and know what to expect from their days. Routines help to ground children and give them a sense of security. Also try and get some sort of routine happening around homework. Getting your child into good study habits early will benefit both of you.
- Don’t let your negative experiences impact on your child – If you didn’t have a particularly enjoyable time at high school try not to let your child know that. Encourage them to try out for teams, make new friends, take up new instruments etc. Broadening their interests will not only make school more enjoyable, but it will make them more interesting and capable people in the long run.
- Praise your child frequently – Try not to dwell on your teen’s shortcomings or get frustrated with them for their weakest subject. Focus on what they are doing well in, and tell them regularly that you are pleased with them. Work together with your child on the things they are not so good at.
- Take an interest in your child’s day – Devote some quality time to your child and find out how their friends are, help them with their maths homework, find out how the football try outs went or what their newest art assignment is. Don’t solely focus on academic success – if your child is musical, artistic or sporty that is equally worthy of praise. Let your child know you are interested in them, and value their views and opinions on things.
Starting high school is a special time for teens and watching them blossom from timid children to self-confident and assured young men and women can be a joy to watch.
If you or your teenager are struggling with the transition to high school, please consider making an appointment with one of our psychologists, who can help you smooth out this time of adjustment.
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Ashley Cooper is a registered Clinical Psychologist, working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.