By: Stasi Gibson, Freshman English Teacher at Northwest Christian School
Starting high school is an exciting time for students and their parents; it can also be a time of angst and stress. I started teaching sophomore English at Ironwood High School in 1997, and now teach freshman English at Northwest Christian School. I did enjoy a few years of being a stay-at-home mom in between, although the joke is that I was never home! A lot has changed in education since 1997, but one thing remains the same. It is really important that students have a strong foundation their freshman year. Here are some helpful tips:
KEEP FAITH AND FAMILY A PRIORITY
I’ve seen it happen too many times where families get so busy with jobs, sports and activities, that they rarely spend time together. You must be intentional about keeping family time a priority. At a time when adolescents have many questions and inconsistencies in their life, it is helpful to have the stability of their faith and family for strong roots. We try to have dinner around the table most nights of the week (whether it’s take-out or my hubby’s amazing cooking). This is an important tradition and time to connect and recharge as a family. Home should be a safe place to fall and relax. Plugging into your church home helps remind kids who they are in Christ and they can stand firm when times get tough. Both the family home and church home provide kids the structure and support they need to help stabilize what can be challenging years.
By and large, students who get involved in sports and activities do better academically and socially. Help your child find their niche and encourage them to try new things. Being a part of a team has many inherent values, such as feeling part of a community, having built-in friends, feeling valued, and feeling as they contribute to something. Coaches build mentorships and have a profound influence on teens. During the season they may spend more hours with your child than you do! But it isn’t just sports… Our school has a plethora of clubs that meet each Thursday and everyone is welcome. Get to know some of the parents of your kids’ friends. They may end up becoming some of your closest friends!
WATCH FOR DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Depression and anxiety among teens are increasing at an alarming rate. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help! Some parents may have no idea their child is struggling. Kids can become pretty good at masking their true feelings. Try to keep lines of communication open, and encourage your child to find a mentor on campus or at church who they can rely on. Of course, friends play a significant role in their wellness. Model and encourage how to have healthy friendships. Growing up in the social media age has negatively affected many teens today. If you’re on Instagram, check out Collin Kartchner. He has a profound movement called “Save the Kids” and his findings are concerning. I know there are good things about social media, but if your teen struggles with depression and loneliness I would encourage they take a break from social media altogether, connect with a mentor, and seek professional counseling.
I know the helicopters mean well, but they are not helping their kids. Freshman year is a time for students to learn some accountability and learn from natural consequences. If well-intentioned parents are swooping in every time there is a disagreement or problem, they are robbing their child of valuable learning opportunities. Let them learn these skills while the stakes are low rather than in college, or heaven forbid, as an adult! Naturally, there are times when parents must get involved. But try to be the parent that the teachers love to see; one who is supportive, encouraging, and one who will help hold the child accountable. I remember one year I had given a student a minor violation for gaming during class. His mother approached me after school and I thought she was going to be upset about the minor. Instead, she put a Starbucks on my desk and said, “I can assure you that (gaming) will never happen in your class again!” That was a first! Helicopters also manifest when it comes to grades. Having online grades is both a blessing and a curse. I personally miss the “old days” where you just got a report card and that’s what the grades were. Now parents can drive themselves crazy with checking grades as often as they like. If your child is struggling, let THEM develop the communication skills and reach out to their teacher. I give my kids opportunities to return things at stores, call and make hair appointments, and go talk to teachers themselves if they have an issue. Give them tools to be successful, but don’t do the work for them.
I could’ve written 10 pages of advice on each of these topics, but I was given a word limit recommendation and have already exceeded it even though I’ve cut out quite a bit! Leave it to the English teacher to be verbose. Enjoy this special time in your child’s life. It certainly goes by fast! Remember that God has chosen YOU to be the parent of His wonderful creation. You’ve got this!
Northwest Christian School (NCS) has been serving families Preschool-12th grade since 1980. NCS is a private school devoted to an educational program, which upholds high standards of scholastic and behavioral excellence. Our greatest honor is to enable students to develop a Christian worldview and prepare them to fulfill their God-ordained roles.
NCS is ranked “top private school” in Arizona by Ranking Arizona Magazine and the Phoenix Business Journal and holds Exemplary Accreditation from ACSI.
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