Inside:You can help your eighth grader succeed in high school. Here is what to start doing now.
We walked into the building and even though we’d been there before for other events, it seemed bigger today and less welcoming.
My heart raced a little, my palms were sweaty, and I felt a little nauseous.
How was this happening? I wasn’t ready.
But he was.
I could see his big blue eyes widen and sense his anticipation.
Here we were.
Well, at least our first high school open house.
In just a few months, he’d be walking through these doors as a freshman and taking the biggest steps yet towards his future.
Why did it feel like just yesterday he was taking the first steps he would ever take?
I know I’m not alone. Moms and dads across the country are collectively asking themselves, “Where did the time go?”
As middle school and junior high parents, we’re looking at our eighth graders and trying to figure out how we got here so quickly.
There are so many mixed emotions. We’re proud of the young adults their becoming and for the most part, we know they can handle this new chapter.
But we’re still scared, and worried and unsure.
We want to hold on a little bit tighter, just as we need to begin loosening our grasp on them.
This transition can be intimidating and overwhelming.
There are so many questions and unknowns about how to ensure our kids succeed in high school.
What is the best academic schedule for my child?
How many extracurricular activities are enough for your college application?
What type of social pressures will he experience?
Is there a place for my daughter to fit in?
Many parents go into this whole high school experience simply hoping for the best. But life at home can become stressful when we discover just how much things have changed since we went though all this.
College admissions is increasingly competitive and it becomes clear, even in the first weeks of 9th grade, just how complex and demanding the expectations are on our teens today.
Fortunately, there are many steps we can take when our children are in eighth grade to help them succeed in high school.
After talking to a handful of parents and students regarding how current 8th graders can chart a successful course at the next level here’s what we found out.
8 Ways To Help Your Eighth Grader Succeed In High School
Talk to students already at the high school — and their parents
Get a variety of opinions on teachers, extracurricular activities, sports, cafeteria food, etc. Attend a sporting event or the school musical to gain insight into the student body. Acquiring perspective on an unfamiliar situation can often quash some initial fear.
Evaluate current study habits
The transition from middle school academics, where teachers spend a great deal of time on study skills and test preparation to the autonomy of high school, can be tricky for some students. Talk to your child’s teachers and see if there are areas he can improve upon, and work on those habits now. As one high school junior commented, “There’s not much hand-holding in high school. If you procrastinate, you can’t make it up. Being organized is so important.”
Many students today think they need to overload on a rigorous academic schedule filled with advanced placement and honors courses starting in 9th grade, when this is not the case. Students can maneuver fluidly through these courses, moving up and down in difficulty throughout the years as appropriate. Many colleges recognize student transcripts that demonstrate increased responsibilities and workloads over time. Don’t forget to utilize school counselors who are often well tuned to what course load each student should take.
Discuss extracurricular commitments
For kids that want to get involved, modern day high schools have more options than a Baskin Robbins. There is a club or group for nearly every interest and multiple teams per sport. Parents should encourage their children to join one or two activities, but should also set limits. Many ninth graders overschedule themselves in the beginning, resulting in unneeded anxiety, loss of sleep and stress.
Set expectations for family time
High school comes with new freedoms and an increasing need for independence. While this can be celebrated, parents should still demand some quality time with their high schooler, and meal times when possible. This is not when to harangue over grades or behavior, but instead discuss current events, memories, movies, favorite YouTube celebrities, etc. Even if your child is not sharing every detail of their new life, the consistency of family time and availability of support can be critical to long-term success.
Explore outside interests and fields
While academic courses are important, high school also offers a wide-variety of electives for students — classes that could benefit them in college. Eighth grade is an excellent time to introduce your child to economics, advanced history, and even philosophy. Point your son or daughter to books or movies that highlight industry pioneers, let them independently explore museums, or encourage them to shadow a professional in a particular field of interest. The more they are exposed to, the more targeted they can be in their course selection.
Insist on learning some basic independent living skills
Eighth graders should know how to wash their clothes, cook a few meals and be responsible for certain household chores, such as taking the recycling out on Wednesdays or vacuuming every Sunday morning. High school teachers will treat your child more on an adult-level, so expectations should be the same at home.
Know what your child loves, and encourage him or her to do more of it
Enjoying a pastime or hobby is the key to a happy life. For many students, the transition to high school is seamless, but for some, it can be clunky and confusing. Having an activity they love always available can provide consistency and comfort. It also provides an outlet for kids who get caught up in the rigor and mindless pace of building a college transcript. Having fun is always a good thing for any child. If the parent can join in, all the better.
This seems like a lot, but it really is just a place to start.
You’ll work on these eight areas with your kids all through high school. They will inevitably stumble along the way, but that’s why they have you. You’ll be there to guide them, encourage them and love them.
And take heart in knowing that even though life will ask a lot of them in the next four years, they will still have times to be kids. Even if they’re kids that shave, drive and are taller than you now. 😉