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freshman year of high school

To the Mom of a High School Freshman

(Inside: Freshman year of high school is a milestone transition for both the moms and the kids. Moms, this is how you mentally prepare for freshman year of high school.)

I watched from the driver’s seat as my oldest son shut the passenger door and walk towards the high school entrance for freshman orientation.

My eyes shut and opened, and the scene changed.

Instead, I saw a small blond-headed kindergartner proudly sporting his Captain America backpack turn to make sure he caught my eye. He lingered, smiled, and waved.

Then I blinked again and was back to watching a 6’1’’ freshman’s back getting smaller.

It felt strange.

freshman year of high school
Freshman year of high school can be challenging for both the mom and the kid. Join our community of moms raising older kids and be encouraged. Join here.

I’d never not gone with him to see him meet his teachers, find his classroom(s), and unpack his school supplies in his locker.

From kindergarten to 8th grade, bustling around the school with other parents and their students is the only norm I knew.

As I observed my son gather with his peers outside the main door, unexpected big emotions swirled. But how exactly did I feel? It was hard to pinpoint: Disappointment that I can’t go with him? Pride that he’s getting independent? Disbelief that I’m old enough to have a high school kid?

My muddled feelings, though, pointed me to this truth: my role as a parent just changed.

I just took a new place in his journey – a few steps back.

I know these next four years will be important years with big life lessons. To grow and mature he needs to learn to navigate his path with independence. But still, I catch my breath at this change.

Because I know people are going to hold his heart who don’t deserve it.

Yes, he will make solid life-long friends, but these years are when his peers are figuring themselves out too. So, sometimes he’ll be overlooked or mistreated or not cherished the way I’d like to see, and it’s all a part of growing up. He’ll learn the value of true friendships and how to navigate the social scene.

However, as he maneuvers through peer relationships, even though my role has changed, he’ll still need me. And I’ll be waiting – simply a few steps back.

I also know expectations are higher.

Grades count. ACT scores stick. Teams start cutting. Clubs do adult things like build robots and give speeches. In it all, he’ll start figuring out his skill-set and interests and direction. Then, everyone will be asking where he wants to go to college and what are his post-graduation plans – he’s going to experience a new kind of pressure.

However, as he maneuvers through learning about himself and finding direction, even though my role has changed, he’ll still need me. And I’ll be waiting – simply a few steps back.

Responsibilities grow.

From getting a job to learning to drive, he learns to manage more. His schedule becomes his charge as the school staff and coaches and bosses communicate with him and not me. In these years, he’ll get a glimpse of adulting.

However, as he learns to get organized and manage heavier responsibilities, even though my role has changed, he’ll still need me. And I’ll be waiting – simply a few steps back.

There will be joy and struggle.

He’ll find success in unexpected ways, and his confidence will grow. But also, he’ll mess up and be disappointed. And sometimes, I will draw the line on important things and say “no” to remind him who he is – a good kid growing into a good man. I will also get to cheer him on and tell him how he makes me so proud.

As he goes through the highs and lows of the teen years, even though my role has changed, he’ll still need me. And I’ll be waiting – simply a few steps back.

Just like in elementary school and in middle school, the homework assignments and practices and homecomings and evenings-with-friends-over will all tick by so fast.

I’ll blink, and he’ll be in a cap and gown receiving his diploma.

But, I’m not there yet, I’m sitting here in the car at the start of this journey. My hands maneuvered the steering wheel out of the drop-off zone. Even though I began inching away, a piece of my heart stayed. And a mourning for that little boy and his Captain America backpack flashed through me.

Yet, I also felt something else: gratitude I get to be with him during these next four impactful years – what a gift!

And it’s okay that I’m a few steps back.

conversation starters teens
Connect with your teen over these 400+ conversation starters.

Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens

You just dropped one kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.

You are parenting tweens and teens.

It’s an amazing life-phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid, and celebrate the awesome momma you are. 

I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life-chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Plus, you’ll get instant access to all the great resources in the freebie library. Join our community here or below. 

gifts for moms

Read the full Help Your Kid Thrive in School Series

As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools of success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.

I hope you enjoy these articles.

Help Your Kid Thrive in School Series

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School By Asking These 4 Questions
Why I’m Not Freaking Out that My Struggling Reader Has Low Reading Scores
A Mom’s 1st Day of School Wishes
Moms, You’ll Better Enjoy the End of the School Year Remembering THIS

GETTING ORGANIZED
Kid’s Morning Routine Checklist: Get Your Kids Out the Door Happy and On-Time

BOOKLISTS
146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that Will Also Build Character
Compelling Books that High Schoolers Will Want to Read

freshman year of high school
Freshman year of high school can be challenging for both the mom and the kid. Join our community of moms raising older kids and be encouraged. Join here.
my teen has low motivation

Frustrated Mom – Your Unmotivated Teen Will Find Success

(Inside: My teen has no motivation. What should I do? Help me gain perspective on this!)

My teen has no motivation

I had a wretched evening. My middle school son and I battled over his schoolwork and I felt completely discouraged…

The next morning, I went to a student-of-the-year presentation at the high school where I teach. Each teacher picks a student who has stood out over the year. This award is a big deal.

Low motivation in teens is not uncommon

A teacher stood up with a graduating senior I’d had in previous years. She’d both warmed-my-teacher-heart and broken-my-teacher-heart. Incredibly likable, this girl was kind and fun to be around. But she didn’t like homework, or goals…or really doing anything academic at all.

Despite encouragement and talking-to and phone calls home, her mom and I barely dragged her over the passing line in my class. For three high school years, she struggled to find any success at all in school.

Are you tired of nagging your big kid to take care of their responsibilities? I would through a tough school phase with my son, and communicating through a checklist was a game changer. Read more in the description here.

How this teen became motivated

Then something happened – I don’t know really, but her senior year, we all saw a change in her.

She carried herself differently. With more confidence. Like she’d made up her mind to do well and now she was ready to take some steps.

She started making plans for after graduation – her future excited her. She took on more leadership roles in school – her confidence grew. She focused on getting assignments completed and turned in – her grades went up.

And now she was standing on a stage being applauded by a room full of teachers, administrators, parents, and peers.

Her mom beamed as she came over to say hello after the presentation. I asked, “What changed?” She said, her daughter…

Ready for this life-changing event?

This lighting strike moment?

…she said her daughter simply matured.

Related Article: A family connection activity to increase you and your kid’s happiness

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Moms, we keep giving our unmotivated teens the tools to success

No big dramatic moment, instead, at the end of her junior year, she quietly began to “grow up.” All the things her parents and teachers said to her finally started to sink in. And because she’d been given the tools to find success over the years, she knew to pull them out and start testing a few. Also, because everyone unconditionally loved her when she wasn’t using her gifts, I imagine she knew she had nothing to lose by simply trying.

This mom’s words were exactly what I needed to hear.

Just because my kid fought me on completing homework well, doesn’t mean he always will….

And just because our kids don’t always make good choices, doesn’t mean they always will… Just because our kids are moody and cranky with us, doesn’t mean they always will… And just because our kids can seem apathetic with no ambition or direction, it doesn’t mean they always will…

Sometimes kids just need time…

to grow…
to let it all sink in…
to be a late bloomer…
and mature.

 

Related Article: How to Get Your Teen to Their Aha Moments (Better communicate with your teen)

Have faith – your kid will find their way

Moms, we stay the course. We keep loving and encouraging our kids through the high moments and the low moments. Even if our kids don’t respond to our “motivation” and “wisdom,” we keep giving them tools. We keep placing in their toolbox life lessons and tangible steps of how to be successful along with a ton of unconditional love.

And then we know – we really know and believe…
…that maturity will happen…eventually.

Join this mom community of moms of older kids

Are you parenting tweens and teens? Then you’re in the right place and I’d love to stay connected. Get instant access to 17+ helpful freebies and monthly empowering emails by clicking here (or below).

gifts for moms

Read more in the helping your big kid thrive in school series…

As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools for success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.

I hope you enjoy these articles.

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Teen, These Big Reasons are Why You’ll Like Trying Hard in School

GETTING ORGANIZED
A Simple Way to Motivate Teens to Be More Responsible

BOOKLISTS
146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that Will Also Build Character
Compelling Books that High Schoolers Will Want to Read

my tween has low motivation
Photo by Rubén Rodriguez on Unsplash

Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School by Asking these 4 Questions

(Inside: Do you want to help your kid thrive in school? These four questions will help your child find success and enjoy his or her educational journey.)

I scanned the array of graduation photos spread out in front of me. Geez, it’s been years since I’ve taught these amazing students in high school.  

I picked up a picture of a former high school senior remembering how – even though life always seemed to throw him curveballs that he didn’t always handle the best – he was determined to get into college and be the first in his family to graduate from higher education.

Then, there was the sweet girl, she beamed in her dress with brunette curls outlining her face. That girl always had drama, so much typical high school-girl drama…I wondered if she’d reached her dream of starting a daycare.

I scanned the photo of the heavy-set, no-nonsense face of the athlete – that kid had goals. College team. Maybe, the Olympics. His focus was always on doing what needed to be done to be the best at his sport, including staying after school and studying with me when he struggled.

Each kid in the dozens of pictures was different…from race to social-economic backgrounds to family dynamics to interests and personality. But, all of them ended their high school career with good memories, hope for the future, and a drive to move forward. 

What commonality did these diverse scholars share that helped them thrive?

I wanted to organize my thoughts around this not as a teacher, but as a parent.  

Because I want my kids – my three very different sons – to be beaming hope and determination in their high school graduation pictures. What can I do now in their elementary/middle school years to get them there?  

So, I begin to untangle my memories, evaluate each student, and connect the dots of what qualities strung these diverse thriving individuals together. In my reflection, I found four qualities/actions these students shared.  

  • Connection – each graduating senior had a friend who had their back, classes they liked to attend, school activities they enjoyed and/or school staff who made them feel important. 
  • Organizational skills – None were perfect, but they all figured out an organizational system that worked. 
  • Progressive maturity – They grew in maturity over the years. 
  • Asked for help – They learned to reach out when they needed help.

As parents, we can grow these qualities in our kids.

Building on the foundation of love and trust we have with our kids, we can ask these questions at the beginning and throughout the school year to find out where our kids are and how we can support them.  

4 Questions Parents Need to Ask to Help Their Kid Thrive in School

**This blog post contains affiliate links.**

1. Who is the school friend you prefer to hang out with the most?

 Or, who did you sit by at lunch? Who do you like in your class(es)?  Is there a teacher you connect with? Friends and connections can play a huge role in students liking school and feeling self-motivated to do well. 

Dr. Paul Schwartz says:“Friendships contribute significantly to the development of social skills, such as being sensitive to another’s viewpoints, learning the rules of conversation, and age-appropriate behaviors,” He continues: “More than half the children referred for emotional behavioral problems have no friends or find difficulty interacting with peers.”

Ideas to help your kid thrive in school through friendship:

It’s absolutely normal for friendships to sometimes struggle. Also, it’s absolutely normal for kids to go from feeling lonely to being connected. Here are some ways to help your students find their people – 

  • Join a school activity – I strongly believe all students need to find one school activity to join. This can be an absolute game-changer. 
  • Be a friend – your child could bless someone else by looking for people who need a friend and reaching out. There are lots of students who need a friend. 
  • Invite someone over…or to a movie, or to online-game. 
  • Read Growing Friendships as a family – There are great ideas to help kids understand the ins and outs of friendships.

 

Related Article: 146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that will also Build Character

2. How are you planning on staying organized?

Let your student decide how to best use their strengths and personality to accomplish their organizational goals. Everyone has to learn to be organized to be successful in life, and school is a great place to try and figure it out. A conversation around this can help set your student up for success. 

Ideas to Help Your Kid Thrive in School through organization:

  • Look through Schoology or whatever organizational program your student’s school uses and figure out how to best use it. 
  • Create a routine at home for homework completion. 
  • Decide how you will check in with your student regarding school performance. My middle school son and I had a rough, rough period where I was constantly nagging him, and we both hated it. We decided to communicate through a checklist instead. He’d mark when he’s done, I’d look once at the end of the evening. Total game-changer. Read more here. 
  • Buy a fun planner.
  • Get everything ready the night before school, backpack, lunches…etc.
help your kid thrive in school

3. How do you feel? (Happy? Content? Frustrated? Discouraged?)

Reflection and conversation can help our students mature. What at school didn’t work out and how did it make them feel? How can they improve the next time? What relationships are hard? What do they need to let go of and what do they need to try and change?

Our kids need to feel heard. The conversation doesn’t have to go perfectly, but simply starting it sends huge you-are-heard messages. 

Ideas to Help Your Kid Thrive in School Through Conversation:

  • Make dinner time a sacred place – eat together most nights. (Or if your schedule doesn’t allow, what about breakfast? Or snacks? Or dessert?) 
  • Make the car ride to activities a place to talk. (Your little humans are trapped! With. You. Take advantage of the time to talk.)
  • Make chores a “special time” with one kid. Take a child with you to the grocery store, or to walk the dog…create one-on-one time to talk.
  • Tuck-ins – always do tuck-ins. It’s amazing how faded lights will open up words.
  • Ask your kid what he/she would like to do to connect with you. (Don’t buy into the apathy. My two decades plus teaching high school has taught me, kids want their parents to pay attention to them. Even if they don’t act like it. Keep after it. It means more to them than you know.)

4. How can I help you? (What resources do you need? Or who can you ask for help?)

In our individualized culture, we have to teach our kids to hear that inner voice that cries out for help.

The schools are staffed with resources, some professionals you might not even know about. (At the public high school I teach at we have an on-site social worker helping families find housing, a school psychologist meeting regularly with students, and teachers/ administration always willing to hand out kindness and guidance.)

Let’s encourage our kids to reach for the community.

Then, once parents have discussed these four questions with our kids, we can step back and give our kids space.

We let them grow, let them learn, and let them wrestle with things. Our job isn’t to shield them from all pain and responsibility. Instead, it’s to guide them to grow through the bumps in their journeys.

Then when our kids reach the end of their senior year, we frame that senior picture, and we smile too…because we helped them get there. Our intentional questions helped us raise happy, hopeful, ready-to-move-forward human beings.

Read more articles on school…

I’ve been a high school teacher for over two decades, and I have a passion for helping kids do well in school. I fully believe every kid is capable and wants to thrive in school – you just can convince me otherwise. Here are a few more of my thoughts…

Your Teen’s Maddening Behavior is Age-Appropriate and Here’s Hope
Teen, These Big Reasons are Why You’ll Like Trying Hard in School
A Simply Way to Motivate Teens to be More Responsible

 

Join this community of moms raising big kids…

You just dropped one kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.

You are parenting tweens and teens.

It’s an amazing life phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid, and celebrate the awesome momma you are.

I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Plus, you’ll get instant access to all the great resources in the freebie library. Join our community here or below.

help your kid thrive in school