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 may 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.
Keep a fridge full of fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese and hard-boiled eggs. A few healthy snacks may counteract the burgers and fries.
The best place for difficult talks is in the car. Limited eye contact allows for maximum honesty.
Be kind, but do not pay much attention to boyfriends or girlfriends. Many will come and go over the years.
Laugh, especially with them. Life is funny.
Always follow your gut! If you suspect there is a problem, there probably is one.
Leave your clock, calendar and wallet at the front door of the school; you've now lost all control over them!
Good luck, new high school parents! And please, if you've made it through high school with your child and have your own words of advice, be sure to leave a comment. We learn from each other!
Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, writer and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, ChaosChronicles.com, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.
Published on August 18, 2010