If you are a parent of a school-aged child, the month of June is a natural time for reflection. If you are a parent of new high school student, it’s also a necessary one. Now that their first year of high school is wrapping up (or has already wrapped up), take advantage of this time to reflect on the last year and look ahead at what’s to come over the next three years.
Start with open-ended questions. The point here is to start a conversation that you will continue throughout high school. Great questions might include:
What did they find surprising about high school?
If they could do something from the past year differently, what would it be?
What were their favorite and least favorite parts of freshman year?
Listening to their responses will help you determine what to ask next. Remember, talking through these items over several conversations (some casual, some more formal) can make them seem more natural and less overwhelming. You’ll also want to dive deeper into specific areas, including:
This goes beyond academic performance, although grades are clearly important! Review the classes they’ve taken and the grades they’ve received. Are there any surprises? Did they expect to do better or worse than they did? For many students, the transition from middle school to high school can be difficult, even if they were great students in middle school! How are they managing the workload? When their report card arrives, review their transcript with them.
Just as you did with with their academics, talk about what they’ve been doing outside the classroom. They are just getting started in high school, so they have a huge opportunity to get involved in the coming year. If they’ve done a few things, ask if they want to deepen their commitment or try something new. If they haven’t gotten involved in anything, encourage them to pick a few things to try in the coming year. If they aren’t interested in getting involved in school-based activities, help them identify opportunities in their community such as part-time jobs or volunteering opportunities.
It is essential to check in to see how they are feeling overall about things in general as teens can feel overwhelmed and anxious without letting parents know. It’s good to ask (and ask more than once) even if you think they are thriving. If they are struggling in anyway, you can intervene!
This is when you and your child take all the insights you’ve gathered and put them to use. If they are struggling academically, talk with their school about adjusting their schedule for sophomore year or consider hiring an academic tutor. Set some attainable, incremental goals for improvement. If they seem to be breezing along, see where they can challenge themselves in the coming year with more advanced coursework such as Honors or Advanced Placement courses.
Chances are you’ve already talked about their post-high school plans, but it never hurts to formalize these conversations. Talk about their expectations and yours. Make sure they know what it takes to get into different colleges, especially if they are eyeing more competitive schools. The next two years are really important! A few lower grades here and there don’t have to be devastating, but GPA gets harder to improve as high school progresses. Think about what’s ahead: AP coursework, the PSAT/SAT and ACT, college visits, and anything else that they care about.
Remember, it might be too early to get started, but it’s never too early to think about the big picture!
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