Moving from middle school to high school is one of childhood’s big transitions. School subjects will be more complex. There will be lots of new teachers to meet and new friends to make. And there might even be a whole new school to discover.
All of this change is understandably a little scary for kids (and parents!).
However, the right preparation can help everyone feel happier and more confident about those first exciting days and months. To help you out, we’ve compiled 6 things every parent should know about their child’s transition to high school.
1. Getting to know the school helps
High school can seem very big and scary in comparison to the bubble of middle school. Kids often worry about getting lost and wonder how on earth they’ll find their way around.
Taking a tour and attending orientation are both really useful for getting kids used to their new environment.
Finding out where their homeroom is, where they will have lunch, and maybe even meeting a few classmates will make everything much more manageable on the first day. Encourage them to ask for directions if they need them, too.
2. They’ll be using lots of new skills
Middle school to high school marks a big step up in terms of academia. It also requires your child to demonstrate a whole new range of skills.
You can help your child by giving them opportunities to practice these skills well in advance of their high school start date.
Encourage them to take responsibility for their belongings. Leave them to manage their time and organize their school assignments. And encourage them to talk to peers they don’t know so well. These skills will all help to prepare your child for the new challenges they’ll face at high school.
3. They’re likely to feel a range of emotions
Excited. Nervous. Worried. Your child probably has very mixed emotions about starting high school.
The best thing you can do is encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. You might be able to address some of their concerns — and if not, just talking over their worries can make them feel a whole lot better.
4. There are specific things you can do to support them
A little preparation — and your help — will go a long way. And the earlier your child starts preparing for high school, the better. Here are some ideas to set your high school student up for success.
Before they start
Buy all the right school supplies
Having the right equipment helps a child to feel psychologically ready for the move from middle school to high school.
So head out on a shopping trip for pens, a backpack, and a few new clothes. Most schools will provide a shopping list — check off items as you go. With new classes, subjects, routines, and interests there’s bound to be items that they never needed or wanted in middle school.
Talk about their routines
Along with everything else, high school brings new routines your child will need to get used to. Talking about these routines before the first day is one way to make things feel more familiar.
Discuss how they’ll get to and from school. You might even want to do a few trial runs together. Also talk about where they’ll buy their lunch, how they’ll move between classrooms, and how they plan to keep track of their homework assignments.
Discuss school rules
It can be helpful for kids to know what is expected of them at high school. Go over school rules together, talking about dress codes, behavior, punctuality, and the school’s digital policy.
Refresh school work
During the summer vacation, kids have a lot of time to forget what they learned in the previous school year. This is sometimes referred to as the summer slide.
Help your child hit the ground running when they get to high school by refreshing their knowledge toward the end of the summer break. Use worksheets, read books, and look through old school work — this will help your child feel more confident about facing new academic work.
The first few weeks
Remind them to keep a record of homework (and to actually do it)
In those early weeks, your child will still be getting used to the demands of high school. Gently remind them about homework — keeping a record of it, checking what they need to do, and setting aside the time to do it.
Make sure they’re getting enough sleep
Teens need around nine hours of sleep each night. Easier said than done, sure. But try to ensure screen-free, regular bedtimes. It’s important that children go into each new high school day feeling awake and refreshed.
5. Getting used to high school can take time
Feeling comfortable in a new place, getting used to school routines, and making new friends takes time. Try to reassure your child that everything will fall into place — even if it doesn’t happen right away.
Also, try to be patient yourself. Asking your child every day how things went and whether they made any new friends can feel like you’re piling extra pressure on already stressed-out shoulders.
6. Homeschooling high school is a real possibility
Many homeschool kids end up going to a mainstream high school, but some parents choose to continue the homeschool journey up to their child’s college years.
If this is something you’re considering, remember that you don’t need to know everything! The role of a parent at homeschool high school becomes that of a facilitator rather than an instructor. And there are plenty of online courses, tutors, and co-ops that can help fill in any gaps.
You’ll probably want to get into the swing of record-keeping in advance of their high school years, to make things easier if and when they apply to college (Gulp! Now that will be a transition!).
Aside from that, preparing a child for high school when you’re homeschooling just means brushing up on those all-important independent learning skills.
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