Smoothing the Path From Middle to High School

Tips For Making a Smooth Transition

For some, it’s crossing from one side of a building to another. For others, it’s a bus or car trip to a completely different campus. Whatever the geographic distance, the transition from middle to high school is a significant one for students, as well as their parents. As with any time of change and growth, it’s not always smooth sailing. New classrooms, classmates and teachers, combined with different, often higher, expectations can cause stress and anxiety to skyrocket. Fortunately, there are a few things both parents and students can do to help.

While it is always important to take care of our health, during particularly stressful periods of our lives, it is paramount. For parents, this means encouraging kids to get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends nine-and-a-quarter hours of sleep a night for teenagers, which obviously can be a challenge with most students’ busy schedules. Setting a routine, with time for both homework and relaxing, can help your child feel more organized and less overwhelmed.

Eating three good meals a day ensures your child has the necessary nutrition needed to maintain energy levels. High school is a period of rapid growth and development for kids, and good nutrition plays an important role in this. Whether your student is an athlete, scholar or both, inadequate nutrition can impair her performance. Family meals also give parents a chance to check in with their children and keep the lines of communication open.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever, and unfortunately, many teens don’t get enough. Encourage your high schoolers to find an activity that works for them. It can be as simple as walking or biking in the neighborhood. Even hula-hooping qualifies.

One of the most common pieces of advice for new high school students is to get involved. It’s an easy way to meet new people and feel connected to the school. Cheryl Kane, a Bixby mother of three kids and an educator, has this advice for parents: “Encourage them to get involved right away, whether it’s sports, drama, speech and debate, or an extracurricular club. It’s a great way to meet peers who have similar likes and interests. Also, as simple as it is, remind your child that everyone is nervous making the transition to high school – even if they don’t look it. Tell him to relax, smile, and enjoy the adventure. Finally, remind him that he’s been preparing for high school all along!”

Tulsa mom Sheryl Chadd successfully graduated twin daughters from high school. She offers this advice to students, “You are now setting the path for your future. It may seem a long way off, but the years go by very quickly. Become engaged in as much as possible to help find your passion. You have a long life ahead and need to enjoy it. Be conscious of less fortunate people than yourself and mentor them.”

For parents, Chadd encourages a ready ear. “Keep engaged in your student’s activities. Listen, and always be available. Hold conversations in a way that you are asking questions about them, how they feel, friendships and add adult topics – politics, finances. Don’t judge and dictate behavior! Those days are over, and now is the time to explain what behavior you do expect and your reasons for that.”

Lauran Drummond, a 2013 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, remembers her freshman year. “I would say the biggest change from middle school is independence. This is both good and bad,” she laughs. “Basically, you have the freedom to learn how to pace yourself. No mom or dad sitting there, telling you to do your assignment. You learn to be responsible for yourself.”

Drummond offers these words of wisdom for incoming freshman, “Be confident. Middle school is an awkward time. High school is where you can take that awkwardness and turn it into something fun.”

JulieJulie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.

Categories: Education: Middle and High School