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High School Freshman

If you are the parent of a high school freshman, this is about the time that you are beginning to feel that you no longer have a grip on your child's academic or social life. The high school schedule, both during and after school, is foreign territory for most families and students are quick to understand that their parents don't truly know where they are all day. This is exhilarating to those who want to skirt the edge of rebellion. It is also a time when it is difficult for parents to check on whether that late meeting is really happening or is the child simply using this newfound freedom to "hang out" a little longer. The following may help you to keep your sanity.

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1. Friends: It is more important than ever before to keep tabs on the friends your child is choosing. For the first time your student is meeting people from other neighborhoods and other towns. This means that you probably don't know the family structure and values with which the new friend has been raised. I always found it helpful to invite new friends to have dinner with us. It is amazing how much you can learn simply by watching how children interact with each other and how comfortably the other child interacts with you. It is relatively easy to separate a child who is naturally shy around adults from the child who is devious or who does not respect adults. It is also helpful to be available to drive your child and his or her friends. It always amazed me that children would forget that there was a driver in the car and let slip all kinds of information.

2. Involvement: It is extremely important to become involved in your high school's parent teacher organization and to be an active member. If your school does not have a PTO, start one! It will do you and your community good to be able to help make the high school experience a better one for all our children. When I first moved to a new state a number of years ago, the PTO at my local school consisted of one member. Today it is a vibrant and thriving group with a wonderful newsletter that keeps parents informed about what is happening at the school and is a support to the teachers who spend more time with our children than we do.

3. Awareness: It is imperative that you maintain an awareness of any changes in your child's dress, attitude, behavior, sudden shifts in mood beyond that which can be explained by hormones, and any other things that make you uncomfortable. You are the parent and you know your child better than anyone else. If you feel that something is wrong either physically or emotionally with your child, get help. If you suspect that your child may be pushing the limits too far, speak to other parents about what limits may be appropriate for a 14 or 15 year old. Fit that information into your own comfort zone and be consistent with your child about what you expect. Clearly discuss consequences for a lack of adherence to the rules and, most importantly, follow through. This is a time when you will be tested in much the same way as when your child was a toddler only now the stakes are much higher. It should not be your goal to be popular with your child. You must remain the parent, but be open to discussing with your child his or her point of view on an issue. Communication is critical and it must be two-way.

It is important to remember that college planning begins in grade 9. The actions your child chooses to take now will affect the transcript, rank and other information on the college applications in a few years. Developing good habits now can make the whole process easier later!

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