While parents may shed a few tears when their kindergartener heads off to the first day of school, the biggest transition for students in learning comes much later. Students often find that the move from middle to high school is especially daunting. These rising freshmen are full of hopes and dreams, as well as fears and freedom.
Here, Director of Counseling Viola Lussier with Mount Paran Christian School (MPCS) shares five tips to help any rising freshman transition into high school.
A Seamless Transition
Young teens are excited because they are maturing and beginning to feel like they are grown-ups. Yet, the reality is that they are still young and inexperienced. They must learn to manage their new-found freedom alongside an increasing academic load and challenging social situations. Mount Paran Christian School (MPCS) partners with freshmen to help make the transition seamless from middle to high school. The MPCS guidance and college counseling department offers advice for parents of rising high schoolers.
1. Avoid Making Comparisons
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s all too easy for a conversation with friends and family about your children to quickly turn into a bragging session. While you may be genuinely interested in knowing how your friend’s child is doing (and you want everyone to know about your awesome child too!), be careful to avoid the spiral of doubt.
Entering these conversations can leave parents worrying: “My kid isn’t good enough.” Or “Why isn’t my kid doing more?” Remember, comparison can make us feel less than others, drive a wedge in relationships or show you what others are doing and point out what you are not. Instead, parents must remind themselves that all high schools are different. What happens at one school isn’t the same as what happens in another, even when schools are located in the same city, county or state.
Colleges look at what happens at your child’s school and compare student activity and engagement against what the school offers. While it is common for parents to wonder, “Is this normal?” or “Is this what we should be doing?”, the best bet is to ask the professionals. Ask your counselor, administrator or student’s teacher instead of a friend or co-worker.
2. Focus on Your Values
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a successful parent when your child is successful. Alternatively, when your child is experiencing hardship, parents take it personally. What parents quickly forget is that your family’s faith and family values have to be the center of their parenting.
Parents, consider this: Have you taken a moment to meditate on your child’s future path or pray for your child, not for good grades but for direction? As individuals entrusted with the development and upbringing of these young people, parents must focus on the total development of their children. Focus on their emotions, academics and athletics. Don't give too much attention to just one area, such as athletics or academics.
3. Get to Know Your High School Counselor
At MPCS, students and their families can meet yearly with their counselor to discuss ways to help each student grow, match their course load with college goals and map out their remaining course load. The counseling team at MPCS relishes the opportunity to get to know their students: how they learn and what they like and want to do. It helps the counselors and teachers identify classes and opportunities to benefit the student.
For parents who find this sort of support is not regularly offered at their school, take the initiative to contact your school counselor. Set up an appointment to make sure you and your student understand how they are progressing and what goals they should be setting.
4. Learn the Lingo
High school has very different vocabulary words than middle school and college. When attending presentations, especially for college planning, take notes on words, programs or events that you hear about. In Georgia, there is a difference between the HOPE Scholarship and the Zell Miller Scholarship. Although both awards stem from the same government program, there are different qualifications required and different scholarship amounts. Understanding high school vocabulary will help you to navigate the next four years with ease.
5. It's Never Too Soon for College Visits
When traveling on vacation or visiting family, if you see a school, stop! Even if you skip a formal tour, you can drive through the campus, see the surrounding town and then look online for more information. This simple act provides students with an introduction to college campuses. Students can see what they like and what they don’t like in college.
Some students love the outdoors and would thrive in a smaller college in a rural town. Others want larger campuses and to be around more people. Even college campuses in downtown urban settings all have different vibes - Nashville is not the same as New York City. Never assume that you know everything about a school. Take the time to take the trip.
It's About Helping Your Child
Even if your child is not yet transitioning to high school, these five tips are great reminders to help parents navigate the world of education. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like students must take advantage of every opportunity available, lest their future be ruined, or their college opportunities limited.
Remember, there are plentiful opportunities for students today and no one right path to guarantee future success. By providing loving support and guidance, engaged parents will help direct their children toward a great start, wherever the road may take them.