While parents may shed a few tears when their kindergartener heads off to the first day of school, for students, the biggest transition in learning comes much later. Students often find that the move from middle school to high school is especially daunting. These rising freshmen are full of hopes and dreams, as well as fears and freedom. Here are five tips that can help any rising freshman make for a smooth transition into the high school years.
A SEAMLESS TRANSITION
Young teens are excited because they are maturing and beginning to feel like they are grown ups. Yet, the reality is that they are still young and inexperienced. They must learn to manage their new-found freedom alongside an increasing academic load and challenging social situations. Families at Mount Paran Christian School find that the school partners with freshmen to help make the middle to high school transition as seamless as possible. The MPCS guidance and college counseling department offers advice for parents of rising high schoolers.
1. Avoid Making Comparisons.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And, it’s so true. It’s all too easy for a conversation with friends and family about your children to quickly turn into a bit of a bragging session. While you may be genuinely interested in knowing how your friend’s child is doing (and you want everyone to know about your awesome child too!), be careful to avoid the spiral of doubt.
Entering into these conversations can leave parents worrying: “My kid isn’t good enough.” or “Why isn’t my kid doing more?” Remember, the enemy loves to make us feel “less than,” driving a wedge in relationships, showing you what others are doing and pointing out what you are not. Instead, parents must remind themselves that all high schools are different. What happens at one school isn’t the same as what happens in another school, even when schools are located in the same city, county, or state.
Colleges look at what happens at your child’s school and compare student activity and engagement against what is offered by the school. While it is common for parents to wonder, “Is this normal?” or “Is this what we should be doing?”, the best bet is to ask the professionals - ask your counselor, administrator, or student’s teacher instead of a friend or co-worker.
2. Focus on Biblical PARENTING.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a successful parent when your child is successful. And, alternatively, when your child is experiencing hardship, parents take it all personally. What parents quickly forget is that God has to be the center of our parenting.
Parents, consider this: Have you taken a moment lately to pray for your child? (Not for good grades but for divine direction). As individuals entrusted with the spiritual development and upbringing of these young disciples, it’s critical that parents pray for their children. Pray that God would direct their path. Pray that He would surround them with godly, supportive people who will speak life into them. If we take God out of the equation, it’s a guarantee that the path will be neither easy nor blessed.
3. GET TO KNOW YOUR SCHOOL COUNSELOR.
At Mount Paran Christian School, opportunities are provided for students and their families to meet yearly with their counselor to discuss ways to help each student grow, match their course load with college goals, and map out their remaining course load. The counseling team at MPCS relishes the opportunity to get to know our students: how they learn, what they like, and what they want to do. It helps the counselors and teachers to identify classes and opportunities that will benefit the student.
For parents who find this sort of support is not regularly offered at their school, take the initiative to contact your school counselor. Set up an appointment to make sure you and your student understand how they are progressing and what goals they should be setting.
4. Learn the Lingo.
High school has a very different set of vocabulary words than middle school and college. When attending presentations, especially for college planning, make sure to take notes on words, programs, or events that you hear about. For example, in Georgia, there is a difference between the HOPE Scholarship and the Zell Miller Scholarship. Although both awards stem from the same government program, there are different qualifications required, and they award different scholarship amounts. Understanding the vocabulary of high school will help you to navigate the next four years with greater ease.
5. It's NEVER TOO SOON FOR COLLEGE VISITS.
When traveling on vacation or to visit family, if you see a school, stop! Even if you skip a formal tour, you can drive through the campus, see the surrounding town, and then you can look online for more information. This simple act provides students with an introduction to college campuses. Students can start to see what they like and what they don’t like in a college. Some students love the outdoors and would thrive in a smaller college in a rural town. Others want larger campuses and to be around more people. Even college campuses located in downtown, urban settings all have different vibes - Nashville is not the same as New York city. Never assume that you know everything about a school. Take the time to take the trip.
It's ABOUT HEAVEN, NOT HARVARD.
Even if your child is not yet transitioning to high school, these five tips are great reminders to help parents navigate the world of education. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like students must take advantage of every opportunity available, lest their future be ruined or that their college opportunities will be limited. Remember, we are not more powerful than God, who has a plan for each of us. We must include Him in every decision we make for the good of our children. Ultimately, it’s about heaven, not Harvard!
Viola Lussier is the director of counseling at Mount Paran Christian School.
Curious about the Mount Paran Christian School high school experience? Click here to learn more.