6 Tips to Help your Teenager in their First Year of High School
The transition from primary to high school is a big life event and can bring feelings of excitement as well as nervousness for your child, as emotional, social, and physiological changes occur. The transition phase is not just the move from year 6 to 7; and can last weeks, months or even years as physical, psychological and social changes occur throughout high school.
Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in helping their young person transition to high school in a healthy way by being informed, and lending support and guidance to help their teenager during this big milestone. Parents and caregivers that understand how these changes impact their teenager are more prepared to help make positive adjustments needed along this new adolescent journey. There are many ways that parents can support their teenager’s transition to high school; below are 6 effective tips and strategies to help manage these changes.
1. Talk about their Expectations and Experience
You can help prepare your teenager for what changes to expect in their first year of High School by talking about them. Common changes such as making new friends and possibly changing friends, new routines and managing schoolwork are great ways to start a discussion. Ask your teenager about what they are enjoying the most and what they are worried about. Genuinely listen when your teenager shares their experiences, and any worries and concerns, and reassure them that it is normal to have various feelings during this time of changes. The way parents and caregivers talk and listen to their teenager has an influence on how well they respond. Validating how scary the first few weeks can feel, and that feeling nervous can be normal, can help your teenager understand some of their own emotions. Reflecting on your transition to high school can help in sharing experiences and connecting with your teenager.
When your teenager knows that you are interested in their high school transition it will encourage them to talk openly and feel supported in facing challenges during their first year. Supporting change and the journey of transitions is important for your teenager.
2. Get Involved, Stay Involved
Getting involved is a great way to show interest in your teenager’s education. Settling into the new environment of high school can take time. The location, building, different teachers, all those different classrooms and all those many students who are now older than your teenager (where as last year they were the seniors), all takes time to get used to. There are different ways classes are structured and more movement between classes, than there would have been in primary school. Even after your teen settles into their new environment – getting to know their teachers and making good friendships can take some time. The level of stress and constant changes in high school can still be overwhelming as high schools can be a changing competitive environment, not to mention the added pressures of exams and social demands! It’s a good idea to talk to your teenager regularly to ensure they’re coping with the demands being placed on them. Their ability to cope can change and parents and caregivers may be needed to offer support at various times.
Get involved with open days, presentation days, school parent meetings, if you can, or just pick up the phone and chat to the school. Get to know the school and know who to talk to about any matter that might come up or any questions you may have as a parent. It could be chatting to the year 7 advisor, one of their teachers, the schools welfare coordinator, the Deputy Principal or the office staff.
Show an interest in your teenager’s daily experiences, and in their school work and activities during the day. Have an open line of communication with your teenager and with the school. This way, you can more easily assist when needed during the year and during high
3. Help them be Organised
Teenagers can highly benefit from parental guidance with organisation and time management. Learning organisational skills, staying focused, and seeing work through until the end will help teenagers throughout life, not just in high school. Encourage using a calendar via mobile apps or a physical dairy to highlight upcoming events, exams, and deadlines.
Support and coach them to get to school on time and be ready to leave the house at the right time. This is a new year for them and maybe the way this occurred last year was also different- they may now or in the future need to travel to school on their own. Teach them to start getting their own bag ready for school and get themselves ready for school.
4. Prioritise Health and Nutrition
Healthy, nutritious food helps teenagers with developmental growth, both physically and mentally. A proper diet helps cognitive development to function well, helping your teenager to be able to perform well in school. Proper diet and nutrition can help boost their attention span, concentration, and overall performance.
Teenagers also need around 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep is linked to decreased performance, inconsistency, and poor attentiveness, and can also affect your teenager’s social skills and mood. Parents and caregivers should try encouraging a positive sleep routine which doesn’t involve kids staying up late at night spending time on digital devices.
5. Offer to Help with School Work
High school can be challenging for teenagers. Not only do they need to cope with social and individual changes but also an increased workload, assignments, exams and homework. Parents and carers can be involved in their child’s academic life by offering help with homework and assignments. Encourage your teenager to ask for your help when they need it.
If you are reluctant to help your teenager with homework because you feel that you don’t know the subject well enough, you can still help by showing that you are interested, providing the necessary materials, doing research, and monitoring their work to ensure it’s completed.
Creating a distraction-free environment at home by setting aside a place to study, establishing a regular time for homework, and limiting distractions such as television and mobile devices will really help teenagers focus on their schoolwork.
If they do need additional help with homework, you can ask at the school what support they can provide as some schools have study assistance or homework help programs, or you there are tutoring or homework help programs outside of school as well.
6. Advocate for your Teenager
As a parent and caregiver, you know your teenager better than anyone else. If something is worrying you about their learning or behaviour, talk to them, and contact the school and ask the teacher or school leaders about it and seek their advice. Having a strong, respectful relationship with the school will create healthy communication to monitor changes and concerns for your child. When families and schools work together positive outcomes can occur for both wellbeing and academic success.
Advocate also for your teenager to have health friendships with peers. Friendships are important for this age group, but letting them know that they don’t have to do everything their peers do if they uncomfortable and it isn’t right for them, is important. Peer pressure is something important to discuss with your teenager and advocate and support them to be their own person and that good friends are those who accept them for who they are.
We're Here to Help!
If you are concerned about the mental health or wellbeing of your child, or they are struggling in high school for any reason, please talk to a trusted professional. Each school has counselling staff you can link your teenager with and schools can help. Also, at 2Connect Youth and Community, we offer a number of youth services in the South East Sydney region and surrounding areas; including free counselling and case management for young people experiencing problems at school, concerns with peers or conflict with peers, mental health and wellbeing concerns, family issues, and issues with drugs and alcohol. The support ranges from building connection in community, supporting families, and mentoring young people who are experiencing difficulties in their life. Give us a call on (02) 9556 1769 to access support for you or your teenager if you are in the South East Sydney region.
For other areas, you can contact Parent line on 1300 1300 52 for support and to find a service in your area.