So, You Have A High School Student: Tips for making it through the next four years successfully


So, you have a high school student. These years are going to fly by and even though your job as parent is different when you have a teen, you still play an important role in your child's life. Your teen will become more independent with each passing year. At this point he's beginning to really understand that his course selections, his grades, and extracurricular activities all count. He has to pay attention to graduation requirements and building a transcript.  Your job as a parent is to guide him, keep him on-course, to stay involved. What does that mean?

  • Be involved. Attend parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school events, and other parent meetings. Learn as much as you can about your teens' curriculum, homework assignments and classroom expectations. Stay on top of their performance in each class. Get in touch with teachers and school counselors if you have questions or concerns. Join the school’s PTA/PTO, attend events, volunteer. You want to be connected in order to really find out what is going on rather than relying on your children to tell you. You’ll learn an awful lot by spending time with school staff and other parents as well.
  • Work to understand course selection and take the advice of the experts. It’s important to make sure your teen is on track to complete state graduation requirements as well as signing up for classes that are appropriate for his ability level. Pay attention to teacher recommendations, be realistic and supportive. Your teen needs to be stretched and challenged, but overwhelming him with coursework that isn’t a good fit isn’t going to end well. On the flip side, you don’t want your child to be sitting in a class that isn’t challenging enough. The school staff will be able to advise and guide your teen so listen to what they have to say.
  • Maintain a healthy balance. Between academics, athletics, the after-school job, social life, and other activities, our teen have a lot on their plate. You want him to be successful, to be connected, to have activities and have fun, but there has to be a good balance. Help him to understand that school is his first priority and that class choices and grades will play a big part in determining what options he will have post-graduation.  Make sure that there is a quiet place to complete schoolwork at home and make sure to keep the use of smart phones and other technology in check during study time.  Additionally, seriously consider the time commitment required for outside-of-school activities and adjust schedules and patterns as needed in order to keep a healthy balance. Paying attention now will be a lot easier than dealing with problems when your teen finds himself in crisis mode.
  • Set reasonable expectations regarding curfews and going out on school nights. Know who your child’s friends are, who they are hanging out with and where they are spending their time. You’re not being over-protective, you are being a parent.
  • Seek information about post-secondary planning and guidance. You want your teen to be successful, to find a career that he loves, and to be financially independent one day. It’s important to be supportive of his dreams. It’s also important to be realistic. It’s a big world out there with countless options to pursue. Help your teen with that information search and decision making.  Meet with the school guidance counselor and gather enough information to lay out a road map that will include planning coursework, setting goals, staying motivated, ensuring that requirements are met, and include steps to evaluate and change things up as needed.
  • Encourage your teen to seek out job shadowing opportunities so he can spend a day (or more) with someone who is already working in their desired field. This will allow him to see what a particular job is like on a day-to-day basis, what the working conditions are like, what they like or dislike, and finally about what it takes to be successful from an expert in that field.  The experience will either be a great motivator or a reality check, but it’ll be a great opportunity to explore.  Attend the school’s college planning information events and don’t necessarily wait until junior or senior year to start gathering this knowledge. Give yourself plenty of time to learn, ask questions and explore. Guidance counselors can tell you about entrance requirements, testing requirements, financial expectations and assistance and can help guide you and your teen through that process.
  • Get help now if you find that your teen is struggling academically, socially, emotionally, or with substance abuse. High-schoolers have more independence than they’ve had before, but with that comes added temptations.  Keep track of academic progress, notice changes in behavior, be observant, stay connected and talk with your teen every day. Navigating the high school years is difficult but there are a lot of professionals in your area that can step in and help when it’s needed, including school counselors, private counselors and professional tutors.  A professional can be a good sounding board, offer suggestions and direction, and can think about the situation objectively and unemotionally during a trying time.  

I hope that these tips and this information will help you stay connected with your teen and his school, and will lead to a successful high school experience.