10 steps for creating a smooth transition to high school

By Erica Patino

Expert reviewed by Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT

Being in high school is a big change for teens. They have more independence and a wider range of classes and activities to choose from. But they also face more pressure to get good grades and to start thinking about the future.

You can’t take away all of the stresses that come with starting high school — whether your child will be a freshman or is switching to a new school. But there are steps you can take ahead of time to make the transition go more smoothly.

Meet with the school.

The spring or summer before your child starts high school, schedule a meeting with the staff to discuss your teen’s learning and thinking differences. Encourage your teen to attend.

Discuss class selection.

Meet with the guidance department to get advice on choosing the best mix of classes for your child. They may be able to suggest certain teachers who have experience with your teen’s learning and thinking differences.

Explore extracurricular activities.

Talk with your teen about which school groups and activities sound interesting. Joining up can help your high-schooler meet kids who share the same interests.

Brush up on social skills.

Remind your child about the importance of following social rules. That includes thinking before speaking and not interrupting. If those are weak spots for your teen, there are ways you can help at home. You can also consider enrolling your high-schooler in a summer social skills class.

Go to the orientation and tour the campus.

Get a map of the school and bring a copy of your child’s schedule. Help your teen find all of their classrooms now, before school starts.

Review the student handbook.

Go over the rules for student conduct with your child. If your high-schooler’s learning or thinking differences might cause a problem, talk to school staff about it before the start of school.

Meet with teachers early.

Ask to meet with your child’s teachers a few weeks after school starts. Talk about your teen’s strengths and the areas in which your high-schooler may need help. Waiting until after the first marking period can hurt both your child’s grades and your teen’s self-esteem if things aren’t going well.

Encourage self-advocacy.

Suggest that your child reach out for help on their own. That might include asking teachers for informal or talking about the plan, if your teen has one. Be supportive of your child’s efforts but stay involved to make sure your high-schooler gets what they need.

Provide summer structure.

Suggest summer activities that involve a schedule and responsibilities, such as band camp, sports teams, or volunteer work.

Support summer reading.

Encourage your child to read over the summer. It doesn’t matter what it is — books, magazines, or online content. Reading anything during the long break can make your teen’s transition back to the classroom easier. It also can keep your high-schooler from losing skills they’ve already learned.

As the school year gets underway, continue to talk to your child about how school is going. It’s normal for kids to feel a bit overwhelmed during the first few weeks. Understanding the stress teens feel in high school and the learning challenges they face can also help you prevent problems.

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