Freshman Orientation for Moms! Advice for New High School Parents

by Lian on August 16, 2012

These two are now a Freshman and a Senior in High School. Woo-hoo! And gulp.

Freshman Orientation for Moms. In honor of my two high school sons who headed off together today, one a freshman and the other a senior, I thought I’d re-post this column I put together  few years ago with your help. The Bold typeface is the original post and the Italics typeface is my updated take . Enjoy and please add your own lessons learned in the comments:

When my son started high school last year, I discovered that becoming a new high school mom is a lot like giving birth. When I was pregnant, I didn’t really want to know all the dirty details about labor just until before delivery. Then, I wanted to know everything. And fast!

I experienced that same sensation after dropping my son off at high school the first day. The minute he walked off to his first class, I realized how much I didn’t know about the next fours year! So I turned to a real panel of experts:  Experienced High School Moms. They dished up advice on all kinds of areas pertinent to the high school years—from academics to nutrition to social issues:
Don’t say the word “college” for the entire freshman year. High schoolers today face non-stop college pressure; they need a year to just be freshmen. Sounded so good until I started the college search process with my older son this summer and those lower grades freshman year have come back to haunt him. Don’t be crazeballs about college, but every year in high school counts.

Same advice for homework and grades, at least for a while. High school is where they really need to figure out the academic piece on their own, without the “guidance” of mom and dad.  If you can back off for the first semester, you may set them up a successful, independent four years. I backed off academically and it was less stressful day-to-day. He has made his own way, for better or worse!

Have faith in the teachers and coaches.  They will become wonderful mentors and advisors.  True, they will also test your child and his or her sense of self. Expect rapid maturity in some cases, while your kids sit on the bench, don’t get the part or fail the test.  Smile! At least it’s not you teaching them a life lesson.

New experiences like school dances and Friday night football games require advance conversations about rules and expectations.  Be clear about curfew and transportation issues.  Yes, yes, yes, yes. Never change the plan.  NEVER! And the possession of a cell phone does not give them license to call 20 times a night with new plans. Stick fast to your rules. 

Keep in mind that this may be the time you want them to screw up. They’re still in your house and you can help them learn from it. I am looking forward to the empty nest. 

Think really hard before you speak. One inkling that you’re “judging” them or their friends, and you’re done.  Practice restraint. Amen. But let them know in every way possible ( text, lunchbag notes, in the car) that you are there for them if something is off. 

 Get a carpool going, so there are more kids in the car than just your own. You’ll hear more about what is happening at the school. Make sure you include a girl in the carpool, especially if you have a non-communicative boyOr be the house where the kids gather at night and afterschool. It will cost you more in food, but you’ll make up for it in knowledge and peace of minds about their friends and their activities.

Have a place for downtime apart from parents.  High schoolers just want to hang out with their friends and taste a little bit of freedom. Give them a long leash. A long, well- articulated leash with a fully-charged cell phone at the end.

Keep a fridge full of fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. A few healthy snacks may counteract the burgers and fries. And say a small prayer for Mickey D smoothies and  Power Bars.

The best place for difficult talks is in the car. Limited eye contact allows for maximum honesty. Use any means possible if they want to talk but don’t want a face to face. Texts work, too. The new “car talk.” 

Be kind, but do not pay much attention to boyfriends or girlfriends.  Many will come and go over the years. Very true. Don’t take their relationship anymore seriously than they do. 

Laugh, especially with them. Life is funny. Next Saturday night, rent What About Bob together. Trust me. 

ALWAYS follow your gut! If you suspect there is a problem, there probably is one.  And the problems get very serious, very quickly: suicide; cutting; eating disorders; unprotected sex; reckless driving; drug and alcohol abuse. Wow. By the time the hit Junior year, the stakes are very high. Do not wait for the right time. Make the time if you think your child or a friend is in trouble.

Leave your clock, calendar, and wallet at the front door of the school; you’ve now lost all control over them! Yes to the clock and calendar. I think we still have some control over the wallet! 

Good Luck, new high school parents! And please, if you’ve made it through high school with your child and have your own words of advice, be sure to leave a comment. We learn from each other!

Embracing my Chaos,


Related Posts:

The Teen Commandments

6 Things Every Teen Wishes their Parents Knew

Keeping the lines of Communication Open






Kathy in Atlanta August 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Lian, what adorable little boys!

Lian August 17, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Thanks for the comments. And thanks for more advice.

I am speecheless about Betty’s Quads!!

Re: College. Try my friend Dr. Nancy Berk’s Site– she writes a lot about college and may have something to help you get ready. She’s a psychologist, mom, stand-up and author of College-Bound and gagged!


cloudmom August 17, 2012 at 12:38 AM

Amen! Your re-post is so helpful. We have been working on this too. Our latest challenge is how to discipline/guide behavior in public with teens. Shouting their name, counting to three, or saying “knock it off” in Target seem dome what disrespectful. Any ideas?

Betty August 16, 2012 at 11:26 AM

I will share with my sister as she has four, count ‘em four (quadruplets – 2 boys, 2 girls), heading into their freshman year of high school in a few weeks. They’re taking oldest daughter to college this weekend. Oldest son is a college junior. High school sports teams and band practices have already started and first soccer game is in about half an hour. College freshman is on her school’s soccer team (go St. Lawrence University!). Will we ever keep all the schedules straight and why, oh why, do the four 14-year-olds keep uttering the words “driver’s ed” ???

Joy August 16, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Do you have another list for moms of new college students? My son goes off to college next month. While I graduated from college I went to one close to home and never lived in a dorm. I’m the first mom of my friends to have a child go off to college, so advise is lean!

Sara August 16, 2012 at 9:43 AM

This is great. I needed to see this and I’ve only got an 8th grader. I particularly liked your comment about not changing the plan regarding curfew and transportation. Last Fri when my daughter was out at a nearby restaurant with some friends, I received three phone calls in 15-minutes begging me to extend the pick-up time from 8:30 to 9:00. Each call was more urgent and added that other parents were okay with the later time. I stuck to my gut and didn’t move back the pick-up time. I hope next time they’ll just enjoy the time they do have rather than wasting it trying to convince me to give them more time out. Not likely, I know.

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