Freshman Orientation for Parents

Aug 19, 2010

As our baby gets ready to start her last year of high school next week, we’ve got back-to-school on the brain. You probably do, too. So herewith our neighbor Lian Dolan (author of the upcoming novel Helen of Pasadena) writing from her year-long vantage point as a high-school parent for

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 until just 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 four years. 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. And, time and again, as my son navigated his way through freshman year, I returned to their sage advice about grades, school dances, girlfriends and new friendships.

So, now that I am an experienced high school mom myself, I wanted to pass along their words of wisdom and a few of my own.

Don’t say the word “college” for the entire freshman year. High schoolers today face nonstop college pressure; they need a year to just be freshmen.

The same advice goes 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.

Have faith in the teachers and coaches. They will become wonderful mentors and advisers.

New experiences like school dances and Friday night football games require advance conversations about rules and expectations. Be clear about curfew and transportation issues.

Keep in mind that this is the time you want them to screw up. They’re still in your house, and you can help them learn from it.

Think really hard before you speak. Any inkling that you’re “judging” them or their friends, and you’re done. Practice restraint.

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 noncommunicative boy!

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.

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