Afraid To Be a Freshman

Q: My daughter is starting high school in August. She is on the shy side, and doesn’t have a lot of friends. She’s gotten way off her school routine, and school isn’t easy for her. What’s the best way to prepare her for this next step?

A: Now is the right time to start thinking about breaking down the changes that are coming and getting ready for the new school year. This is high school. For some kids, this can be one of those years of moving from feeling on top of school to being at a loss within the new school and being in the role of the youngest student.

We know there will be changes in a number of areas:

  • School rules
  • Educational environment
  • Peers
  • Social expectations
  • Family role

Both you and your daughter will be adjusting to all of these issues together. Your job is to know that it is a period of transition and to use your history of knowing your daughter to help her. Start with your past experiences helping her transition into elementary and middle school. What helped in the past? What didn’t help?

When the time is right, have a conversation with your daughter about her biggest fears and concerns. She may prioritize social issues and friendships over feeling ready to read, write, and handle schoolwork again. Hopefully, together you can both define the small steps that can make this a great year for her.

One way to ease into thinking about school again is through watching some inspiring movies. Has your family watched The Freedom Writers, The Great Debaters or Stand and Deliver? All of these are worth working into your summer schedule.

The messages of learning, the importance of history, and the difference desire and effort can make are great lessons to remember. All of the movies show how involved, caring adults can transform students’ lives. You want to make sure that you are active in supporting her through this year. Remember, supporting the school and the teachers is another way to support your daughter.

What has your daughter heard about being a freshman in the school she will be attending? Does she have some friends who already go to school there? Are they the kind of friends she could meet for lunch or see before and after school?

Hopefully, she has already visited the school, been to an open house, and met some teachers when she enrolled for this year. If she hasn’t, the week before school starts is a great time for her to get the physical lay of the land. It would be great if she could walk through her schedule to feel what moving from one class to another will be like.

She probably has some friends who wouldn’t mind doing the same thing. It can really help with the night before school anxieties.

Does her new school have a special dress code? Is it a new or different code for her? Will she be getting some new clothes, or would she rather wait until she sees how others dress? Supporting her assessment of the best way to handle things is probably your best move.

If she wants to go shopping, can you set a budget so she can decide whether she gets a few special things or stretches her money to get all the shoes, clothes, accessories, etc. that she needs.

How are your daughter’s basic studying skills? If she is naturally logical and well organized, she may easily get back into using those skills. If she has struggled in the past with her ability to focus, you might be able to help.

There are many school readiness classes and tutors available in Tulsa. A little work to get her ready for the year could give her the head start that she needs. Getting her to want that head start might be the tricky part.

What would your daughter say has been her best school year so far? What made it really great? Did her vision of herself, her positive attitude, her friends, her schedule, and her extracurricular activities help? If she can detail those past years (not just the big transition years), it can give her the confidence to talk about the next step.

If her shyness keeps her from reaching out to others, it may be time to talk a little about assertiveness. Starting with defining the difference between being passive and aggressive often sets up a framework where sharing her opinions seems easier than saying nothing.

If she has some fears about talking, patiently listening to those worst fears without interrupting, disagreeing, or being overly reassuring can help.

Before ever making suggestions yourself, ask what she sees others her age doing in similar situations. What does she admire and dislike about others’ behavior? Then you can share how you have handled similar situations. What does she think her keys to success in high school might be? What do her friends think? Would having a good attitude, being rested, and being friendly help?

What about re-establishing daily routines, healthy eating, and reading/study times? Are there some new routines that might make the trouble spots from last year work better this year? Might putting out clothes the night before, packing lunches (if she likes that) and planning on always being early make a difference? Can you do the same things for yourself?

Research shows that reading six books over the summer can help keep all the skills a child had over the school year. If your daughter read this summer, know that she already has some advantages. If she hasn’t, there is no time to start like now. Magazines, newspapers, even comic books can help!

Many of these conversations can happen as your family shares its meals together. It is in sharing meals, (again, research says at least four meals a week at home) that the visions for an exciting year ahead, creating a safe place to discuss what has happened in the day, and keeping in touch with your child’s needs, can occur.

Don’t get caught up in the rush life can create to the point that your family doesn’t take time to sit down and eat together. It is the difference that makes a difference that helps the whole family work together as a new year starts fresh! Good luck!


Categories: Teens, Tweens & Teens