Welcome parents of high schoolers to the club! Strap in because you are in for quite the exciting ride! Having just graduated out of the club with my son’s graduation in May, I am back in the club with my daughter starting her freshmen year today.
Yes, for my out-of-state readers, silly Arizona starts them back today! An August 1st start date that I am not thrilled about, but it is what it is. So we put on our sunscreen and headed back early this AM across this part of Phoenix today.
So just like that, I am back in the club. The term is four years and parents of freshman, I am not exaggerating the least bit when I tell you that these next four years fly by faster than anything you can imagine. I am not lying. You will be shocked.
My son started freshman year four years ago and just like that, I was going from snapping pictures of his first day to snapping photos of him sporting a cap and gown.
All my pals told me that high school would go by the fastest. I didn’t believe them because middle school is a shorter term. But they were right. I think I figured out why it goes by so dang fast!
It is the M word.
Not the mom word.
Not the money word (and yes expenses increase in the teen years quite a bit).
Not the me word because it will be all about me (as in them) these next four years. They will think and act like that a lot. Not always, as they have their sweet moments. But these next four years will be all about them.
And it is not the moments word either. Although lots of moments will fill you with joy, with tears, with anger and with pride. It comes with the teenage high school territory.
The M word is milestones. Milestones.
There are SO many milestones during high school. It will make YOUR head spin. It will also spin your budget a bit, too. It will be exciting, thrilling, scary and bittersweet. And I am talking about how it will be for you.
Now multiply that by 100 for your high schooler!
The milestones just keep coming faster and faster.
First day of high school
Driver’s permit (strap in for this one)
Driver’s license (you will love this stage AND you will fear it)
The waiting game as you all wait for the college acceptance/rejection letters
Senior year. When you think it will be all about your kid…but wait until you see the emotional roller coaster YOU will ride!
And finally the big finish – graduation!
And then where I have landed…about to move one into the dorm in 12 days!
And at the same time I just dropped one off to start high school this morning.
If I have overwhelmed you, forgive me. And do this instead. Here are my top tips for productive, bearable and even enjoyable membership into your new club…
- Take it all in because it will go that fast. They won’t always want you to take a picture, but do it anyway.
- Be there but also back off. Teens need their space. It is normal.
- But do be nosy! Check their social media regularly. Know their friends. Meet the parents.
- Ask open ended questions. Instead of how did your day go….ask tell me about Spanish class. What friends did you see today rather than did you see pals today.
- During high school they stop looking AT you at their games, performances, when they are with friends, etc….but they do look FOR you. Be there, be present while at the same time giving them the space they need as they naturally become more independent gradually. They need to become more independent to do things like drive a car, get a job, be motivated to take college exams and apply to college.
- But do still set limits. Curfews, rules and respect still apply. Now more than ever, too. It is a strange time with rules balanced with stages of letting go.
- At times, high schoolers are like overgrown toddlers who want the limits to feel safe, even if they don’t think or realize that they do.
- Talk about curfews, drinking, drugs, sex and the importance of saying no to stay safe, respected and to be in control.
- And a new one for our kids that we didn’t have…remind them that everyone has a camera! I remember when my son made the golf team. He was so excited so we told him that when he attended a party and was offered a beer to of course, decline. But even if he handed it back without taking one sip, someone can still snap a picture, post it on social media for all to see…including the golf coaches. So tell your high schooler to beware. Be cautious. Be smart. Not an easy thing for a teenager to do and to think of on a daily basis!
- It is up to you to remind them. To have the conversations. They may roll their eyes and tell you that you are nagging. But I will tell you a secret. They will thank you later. It happened to me and it happened to my friend with a girl now getting ready to start college. Our kids thanked us a few years later for providing the limits needed at the time.
So DO have these conversations.
Listen. Listen to your high schooler when they want to chat. Put your phone down and really listen.
Tell them that no matter what, no matter what time of day or night, you are always available to them.
Be tender. And show tough love when needed.
Watch your budget. Man, teenagers are expensive. They can help, too with a part-time job.
And be sensitive to the fact that high school is tough. In every way. Academically, too. I know that our country doesn’t rank the highest in academics, but my son had his fair share of homework, detailed big projects, thorough oral presentations to give and some tough midterms and finals along the way.
The two toughest years we found to be were junior year (academically) and freshman year.
Freshman year. Tough in every way.
So hang in there, Moms and Dads of freshman. Of high schoolers. Of your soon to be young adults. Trust me, that happens fast!
Take it all in. Enjoy! It is so exciting!
Shopping for that homecoming dance dress or the prom tux. Gritting your teeth when they are behind the wheel heeding your driving/teaching lessons. Feeling their apprehension, fear, pride, disappointment and excitement when they smile for the driver license picture, open the SAT scores letter, go on that first date.
Man, these four years are really super fun! Just hang on, hang in there, hang out with them and hang back when they need you to.
Welcome to the club. Your term is four years and for the most part, you are going to love it!
Your kid will, too! But like I said, for the most part. There will be tough times. Walk with them.
Take it day by day and remember, with kids the days are long and the years are short. And wait until you see just how short the four years of high school are!
Welcome to the club. One of the most exciting clubs you will ever experience! I am a veteran and a newcomer since this time around I have a girl starting high school.
And parents of girls….feel free to leave your best advice in the comments section as I also strap in, take it all in and dive in to my last four years in this crazy club!
This was so well written and I can feel the love in it. Great job Rachel!
Thanks so much, Kim! Parenting is such a powerful and incredible experience!