Inside: High school has changed a lot since we were kids, so here are eight ways to help your 8th grader prepare for high school, including tips and what to expect in these next four years.
We walked into the building and even though we’d been there a few times before, it seemed bigger today and less welcoming.
My heart raced a little, my palms were sweaty, and I felt a little nauseous.
How was this happening? I wasn’t ready.
But he was.
I could see his big blue eyes widen and sense his anticipation.
Here we were.
My baby was on the doorstep of becoming a high school student.
Well, at least our first high school orientation session.
In just a few months, he’d be walking through these doors as a freshman and taking the biggest steps yet towards his future.
Why did it feel like just yesterday he was taking the first steps he would ever take?
You may also like to read: 9 Essential Soft Skills Every Teen Needs to Succeed in This World
How Do Your Prepare for High School?
I know I’m not alone. Moms and dads across the country are collectively asking themselves, “Where did the time go?”
As middle school and junior high parents, we’re looking at our eighth graders and trying to figure out how we got here so quickly.
There are so many mixed emotions. We’re proud of the young adults their becoming and for the most part, we know they can handle this new chapter.
But we’re still scared and worried and unsure.
We want to hold on a little bit tighter just as we need to begin loosening our grasp on them.
This transition to a new school, and a new phase of parenting, can be intimidating and overwhelming.
There are so many questions and unknowns about how to ensure our kids succeed in high school.
What is the best academic schedule for my child?
How many extracurricular activities are enough for your college application?
What type of social pressures will he experience?
How much should I focus on college prep?
Is there a place for my daughter to fit in?
Many parents go into this whole high school experience simply hoping for the best. But life at home can become stressful when we discover just how much things have changed since we went through this chapter.
The college admissions process is increasingly competitive and it becomes clear, even in the first weeks of 9th grade, just how complex and demanding the expectations are on our teens today.
Fortunately, there are many steps we can take when our children are in eighth grade to help them succeed in high school.
8 Ways To Help Your Eighth Grader Prepare for High School
Your child has four years of high school, and you want them to make the most of it. These tips can help them prepare for 9th grade and succeed in high school and beyond.
1. Talk to students already at the high school — and their parents. Get a variety of opinions on teachers, extracurricular activities, sports, cafeteria food, homework, etc. Attend a sporting event or the school musical to gain insight into the student body. Find out what happens on the first day of class, and perhaps ask an older teenager to walk your child around campus so they can become familiar with the buildings. Acquiring perspective on an unfamiliar situation can often quash some initial fear, especially for those who look at the first day of high school with dread.
2. Evaluate current study habits. The transition from middle school academics, where teachers spend a great deal of time on study skills and test preparation to the autonomy of high school can be tricky for some students. Talk to your child’s teachers and see if there are areas he can improve upon, and work on those habits now. Try to establish a study routine so your student can easily transition into high school level learning.
As one high school junior commented, “There’s not much hand-holding in high school. If you procrastinate, you can’t make it up. Being organized is so important.”
Also, middle school teachers, particularly in 8th grade, are great about helping your student use similar school supplies that high school teachers utilize. Take a look at your child’s backpack. Is their binder a mess? Are their notebooks in shambles? See if you can get them organized now so they know how to study later on.
You may also find this post useful: 5 Amazing Organizational Apps for Teens
3. Pace yourself Many students today think they need to overload on a rigorous academic schedule filled with advanced placement and honors courses starting as high school freshmen when this is not the case. Students can maneuver fluidly through these courses, moving up and down in difficulty throughout the years as appropriate. Many college admissions officers recognize student transcripts that demonstrate increased responsibilities and workloads over time through their senior year. Utilize high school guidance counselors who can offer perspective on AP classes, electives, and other educational issues.
Additionally, resist the urge for your child to compare their schedule to classmates. Just because a friend is taking honors chemistry in their 9th-grade year does not mean your student will be left behind. There is no one-way to do high school successfully. Set up your priorities for your child, and stay the course. Just ensure you are fulfilling the basic graduation requirements.
4. Prepare for high school by discussing extracurricular commitments. For kids that want to get involved, modern-day high schools have more options than a Baskin Robbins. There is a club or group for nearly every interest and multiple teams per sport. Parents should encourage their children to join one or two activities, but should also set limits.
Many ninth graders overschedule themselves in the beginning, resulting in unneeded anxiety, loss of sleep, and stress. Focus on their passions instead of building a resume. Take a holistic look at your child’s schedule. Are they taking a lot of honors classes? Make sure you leave enough room to study. Does a particular sport practice every day of the week? Maybe then it makes sense to only join one extra club or activity and not fill up on honors classes which tend to give more homework. Try to strike a balance.
5. Set expectations for family time. High school comes with new freedoms and an increasing need for independence. While this can be celebrated, parents should still demand some quality time with their high schoolers. This may mean changing meal times to accommodate their schedule or having a weekly family meeting, but make sure it happens.
This is not when to harangue over grades or behavior, but instead discuss current events, memories, movies, favorite YouTube celebrities, etc. Even if your child is not sharing every detail of their new life, the consistency of family time and availability of support can be critical to long-term success. By junior year, your child could be driving, have a job, and be visiting colleges. Having that regular family time you set in 9th grade can help keep your connection with your teen strong.
Preparing for high school also means setting healthy habits, so this is also a good time to set boundaries for tech usage. As your kids get older, you may be tempted to loosen the reigns on monitoring your high schooler’s phone use, but actually, it should be the opposite. As you enter 9th grade, make sure your student has tech boundaries to ensure they get enough sleep, aren’t distracting themselves when they study, and protect their mental health. The goal isn’t to micro-manage our kids, but instead, to instill helpful habits they can use for a lifetime.
6. Explore outside interests and fields. While academic courses are important, high school also offers a wide variety of electives, activities, and volunteer options for students — opportunities that could help your student get into college, network for jobs, or expand their worldview. Eighth grade is an excellent time to introduce your child to economics, set up a regular time to volunteer at a non-profit or introduce them to online opportunities for growth, such as TED talks or podcasts, both of which you can do together.
Point your son or daughter to books or movies that highlight industry pioneers, let them independently explore museums, or encourage them to shadow a professional in a particular field of interest. Talk to them about the value of building relationships with a wide variety of people. The more they are exposed to, the more targeted they can be in their course selection and how they use their free time.
7. Insist on learning some basic independent living skills. You are not just preparing your child for high school, you are preparing them for life. Eighth graders should know how to wash their clothes, cook a few meals and be responsible for certain household chores, such as taking the recycling out on Wednesdays or vacuuming every Sunday morning. High school teachers will treat your child more on an adult level, so expectations should be the same at home.
You may also like to read 50 Life Skills You Can Teach Your Teen Quickly
This also means letting them start advocating for themselves a bit too. They should be communicating with their teachers, coaches, and school counselors, keeping their schedule, and managing their high school career while using you as a sounding board and for general oversight. Giving them this sort of independence will give them a head start for when they fly the nest in just a few short years.
8. Know what your child loves, and encourage him or her to do more of it. A happy high school student is a successful high school student. Enjoying a pastime or hobby is the key to a happy life. For many students, the transition to high school is seamless, but for some, it can be clunky and confusing. Having an activity they love always available can provide consistency and comfort. It also provides an outlet for kids who get caught up in the rigor and mindless pace of building a college transcript. Having fun is always a good thing for any child. If the parent can join in, all the better.
Helping your teen to prepare for high school doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
This seems like a lot, but it really is just a place to start.
While you can start to prepare your 8th grader now for high school, you’ll work on these eight areas with your kids throughout the next four years. They will inevitably stumble along the way, but that’s why they have you.
You’ll be there to guide them, encourage them, and love them through it all.
And take heart in knowing that even though life will ask a lot of them in the next four years, they will still have time to be kids. Even if they’re kids that shave, drive, and are taller than you now.
Just remember, your child’s high school experience doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Be fluid and confident in doing what’s right for your family, and you can’t go wrong.