What I’ve Learned as a Mom of a High School Student
by Tara Bone, contributing writer
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE the first day of school — the excitement, anxiety, and sometimes tears all rolled up into a ball of nervous energy. As parents, we watch our kindergarten child wave goodbye, then we help them face middle school (no waving here), and finally we hold our breath as they head out to conquer high school. We’re left wondering where the time went and if all the days of teaching adequately prepared them for the days ahead.
High school is full of new parenting adventures. It’s during these years teens drive, date, consider career paths, and prepare for adulthood —it’s a wild ride of emotion. Although I’m still experiencing the ride, here are a few things I’ve learned:
Don’t Freak Out
At the beginning of my oldest son’s freshman year, a friend said: “The time for teaching is over; the time for praying is beginning. They’re their own person now.” At first I thought, no way, I’m always going to teach him, and he’s going
to listen (that was funny). As parents, we will always try to teach and warn, but as time passed I understood. I couldn’t constantly be with my son in the classroom, locker room, cafeteria, and parking lot. Talks about pornography, drugs, study habits, or whatever other family-value topic should have already happened. Now it was my job to listen and keep the dialogue rolling. I learned when he shares — possibly something
I may not like — I breathe and repeat, “Don’t freak out, just listen.” Get all the facts and keep the mama or papa bear in check because open communication is critical. This doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. Set boundaries and consistently follow them.
You’re Not Alone
This seems like a no brainer, but it is SO nice to have others rooting for your child. Go to parent teacher conferences, visit their school counselor, and develop a relationship with those who regularly see your child — sometimes more than you do. Enlist more eyes and ears to watch for mood changes or behavioral issues. Talk to other parents about challenges they’re facing and be aware of school activities. Cache Valley is fortunate to have amazing teachers and administrators who care about students. Get to know them; they’re on your team.
Remember, getting to know teachers doesn’t mean helicopter parenting. On the other hand, completely checking-out isn’t helpful either. Help your teen set priorities and goals and outline specific actions that will lead them to success — whatever that looks like for them. Then, step back and let them go. They’ll make mistakes. Don’t panic or come to their rescue. Goal-setting can also help an overachiever stay focused. Ease up on the intensity and let them learn from their experiences so they can cope with stress and become a healthy adult.
Though some days are tough, keep loving your high schooler through it all. Discover how they feel love and show them. With anxiety and depression among teens on the rise and suicide rates soaring, remember the big picture: Is that low test grade really that critical? Does he or she really need to make the whatever team to become a professional whatever? What is the end goal?
I learned this lesson at a sporting event where I felt one of my sons wasn’t giving it his all, although he was content with his performance. I verbalized my frustration and a mother next to me said, “I just want my son to be happy.” Boom, there it was: Let them be happy and don’t sweat the small stuff. Love them, because the years slip by.
Start Your Freshman Year Right
By Tanner Bone, 11th-grade student at Mountain Crest High School
AT THE BEGINNING of every new school year, hundreds of anxious freshmen who are unsure about the year to come make their way to high school. These new high school students will face a whole new environment filled with new opportunities to seize and challenges they’ll need to overcome. From my recent high school experiences, I’ve learned a few things that incoming freshman should know to maximize their first year of high school. They should try to participate in extracurricular activities and start their high school career the right way by staying on top of grades.
When it comes to a freshman’s social life at a new school full of so many unrecognizable faces, it’s important to associate with a variety of people and make friends through extracurricular activities such as athletics, music, theater, clubs, and leadership positions. Through these fun activities, freshmen have the opportunity to build friendships and learn skills. Try something new because the results could be surprising. Extracurricular activities are also beneficial when one is faced with the overwhelming demands of school. It’s always nice to participate in an activity you enjoy doing to cope with stress.
All too often, new freshmen don’t realize the importance of grades in their high school careers. This results in many GPAs slipping for young high schoolers and often leaves them unable to later recover. Luckily, there is an easy solution to combat this mentality: Understand the importance of high school grades and work hard with teachers to achieve the best grades possible. If freshmen follow through with their grades early in high school, their future self will not regret the decision.
Throughout my experiences in high school, I’ve learned that engaging in extracurricular activities and working hard in class will help make high school, and beyond, more successful and enjoyable. I can’t believe I’m headed into my junior year of high school; the time goes quickly. Seize every moment, work hard, and try something new. You never know what’s beyond.
What I’ve Learned as an Elementary School Mom
By Emily Buckley, editor in chief
THIS FALL I sent my fourth daughter off to kindergarten. For weeks I teased her that I didn’t want her to go, until one day she said, “OK, Mom, if I don’t love it, I’ll stay home.” Uh-oh — I had taken the joke too far. I changed my tune and encouraged her innate enthusiasm for this new opportunity to learn and grow.
For me, it hasn’t gotten any easier to send my kids to school. I genuinely miss them while they are away. I have, however, learned a few things that have made me feel more prepared each time:
1. It’s probably going to be harder on you than it is on them. It’s the end of an era for a mama, but the beginning of a grand new adventure for a child. Even if your child is nervous, they will likely settle in quickly.
2. It’s going to be exhausting. It isn’t like your child has never been at a playdate or preschool for three or four hours straight, but a big new school with new friends and a new routine would be exhausting for anyone, especially a 5 year old. Be prepared for grumpiness, tears, and unusual behavior the first few weeks.
3. Encourage independence. Your child’s teacher will thank you. Teach your child to tie their own shoes, zip their own coat, and put on their own gloves. By doing this you are allowing your child’s teacher to spend more time teaching them to read, write, and count.
4. Conversations are going to change. Right around the time each of my kids have started school, their vocabularies have exploded, using words like “prefer” when choosing the unicorn backpack over the butterfly backpack and “overly emotional” when telling me that I don’t need to cry on their first day. That seems cute, but wait until they spend a week or two in a classroom with 20 other 5 year olds with blossoming vocabularies. Since there is no universal code for what families discuss, there is a good chance your child will be introduced to new words, subjects, and jokes that you may or may not find appropriate.
5. Routine is vital. Keeping a routine makes more difference than any other thing we do in our household. Making sure our kids know what is expected before and after school and at bedtime makes everyone’s day run more smoothly and helps us avoid unnecessary meltdowns.
How to deal:
1. Celebrate growth. This is a bittersweet time. It’s hard to watch your baby grow up, but it’s also amazing. Try to focus on the amazing more than the sad.
- There is a fine line between being your child’s advocate and being “that parent.” If you don’t fight for your child, who will? But maybe it isn’t always worth the fight. Let your child learn to deal with tricky situations and consequences for their actions, all while letting them know you’re in the corner when they need you. On the same page, be involved in your child’s education. Volunteer in their classroom, read ALL the notes (there will be a lot of them), and talk to them about what they are studying.
- The sooner you get to know the other parents, the better. These people are going to be involved in your kids’ lives for the next 12 years. Take time to chat with them, volunteer together, and maybe even arrange a parent-child playdate. This is your community — as you build a friendship, you’ll be able to help and support each other; as they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
- Listen. A friend with more experience and wisdom than me advised me to listen intently to all the silly stories and simple worries while my kids are young to ensure they will keep sharing when they are older and facing more complicated and worrisome challenges.
- Don’t get discouraged. There will be lots of hard days. There will be lots of good ones, too. Celebrate the good days and let the rough days be bygones.
Tips for a Great Elementary School Experience
By Eleanore Buckley, 6th-grade student Thomas Edison Charter School North
I HAVE ALWAYS loved school. I love to learn and see my friends. Sometimes it is easy to be motivated to get out of bed and go to school, but sometimes it is hard. On days when I don’t want to wake up early, I say to myself, “Today is going to be a great day.” Still, it can be hard to maintain good grades and pay attention in class. Here are a few things I have learned to do to be a good student and a good friend:
First, one of the most important things to do at school is to participate in class and listen to your teacher. Tracking the person speaking and sitting up straight will help you stay focused. Teachers love to answer questions, so don’t be shy to raise your hand and ask for help.
Second, be a good friend. Friends are so fun! You should always listen to what others have to say and consider their opinions. Like Dale Carnegie once said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people to be interested in you.”
Third, be respectful. Be respectful to your school, your teachers, and your classmates. You can be respectful to your school by throwing away all of your garbage, keeping your desk clean, and wiping your shoes before entering the school if they are dirty or wet. You can be respectful to your teachers by following their instructions, coming to class preared, and being quiet in class. You can be respectful to your classmates by listening to their thoughts, being a positive influence, and doing what they want to do sometimes instead of what you want.
Good citizenship is important. A good citizen is participative, considerate, and respectful. Be extra kind and extra helpful. Another important thing to have is integrity. Be a person who does the right thing, even if nobody is watching.
My little sister is starting school this year, I hope she enjoys school as much I do. If she does these things, I think she will!