Helping your child navigate the first few weeks of high school

Beginning high school can be nerve-wracking for both your child and for you. But there are ways you can help your child navigate the first few weeks and set them up for success for the year.

Walk around the school with them

A few days prior to the first day, take them to the school and walk around the building to help them find their classrooms. High school buildings can seem like a maze to nervous students and some kids are simply afraid to ask for help. Students will gain confidence and feel more comfortable if they know where they are going.

Read the school handbook

Are backpacks allowed? How many tardies are allowed before a consequence? Is food allowed in the classroom? What is the school dress code? Your child will want to know the school rules ahead of time so they don’t accidentally break one. You can usually find the student rules and school policies online.

Help them get their supplies organized

Consider color-coding their notebooks, binders, and folders by class. Pick whatever colors they like. Matching a blue history binder with a blue spiral notebook and a blue folder helps students find what they need quickly during short passing periods.

Buy them a student planner

A paper version is best. Do try to remind them to fill it out each day.  Students do not always check online calendars and classroom apps but if they have a planner in front of them, they can cross off important assignments and tests as they complete them. It also gives you an easy method of checking when work is due without having to remember log-ins and passwords.

Help them see the big picture

Teachers often hand out their syllabus on the first day. Sometimes teenagers become overwhelmed when they see a long list of upcoming homework. Have them mark their big projects on their calendars so they can see that the work is spread out over time.

Writing the due dates on the calendar can also reduce anxiety when several assignments are due at once. Point out windows of time where they have less homework and activities, and encourage them to work ahead instead of trying to complete the assignments all at once.

Set up a homework station

The beginning of the school year is hectic. Find a quiet and comfortable spot for your student to complete homework, but don’t make it too comfortable or they may fall asleep without finishing. Even if they work mostly on a computer or tablet, stock the homework station with supplies such as highlighters, index cards, and paper to help them stay organized and focused.

Encourage them to join a club or activity

Joining groups, teams, and clubs will help them meet new people and make a friend or two in the process. They will also likely develop personal connections with teachers and coaches. It is comforting to have trusted adults in the building who know your teenager well and can help them navigate any issues that may arise when you can’t be there.

Give them some time to decompress

Whether it be on the weekend or a little bit of time each night, encourage them to do something relaxing and not necessarily school-related. Even high schoolers find they need a little bit of me-time.

Need some help getting back into a routine? Check out our back to school articles to help get everyone sorted.

Sandra Drummond

Sandra Drummond is a high school journalism teacher in Omaha, Nebraska. Her children have grown and flown, but her future husband and future step-children are reminding of the happy chaos of living with middle schoolers. Sandra likes to spend her free-time binge-watching shows she never had a chance to see when her own kids were teenagers.

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