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 boy! Or 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,