Transition to high school success

For Abbotsford-area students who said goodbye to elementary school earlier this year, this fall represents a critical transition...

For Abbotsford-area students who said goodbye to elementary school earlier this year, this fall represents a critical transition to high school.

High school means new beginnings, experiences and challenges. And while these changes – new friends, teachers and school environment – can be exciting, they also can be a bit unnerving.

“The transition can be exhilarating and full of promise, but it also can cause some measure of anxiety,” said Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., senior vice-president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning.

“During this single year, a new high school student must assimilate, make new friends, set goals, establish habits and attitudes, select courses, discover talents and interests, learn new skills, and begin to build confidence in this new environment. Making sure a child handles this year well should be an important goal for parents.”

Here are some of the most daunting changes local students will encounter during this first year of high school, and some tips on how to work through them.


New environment

The locker scare: One of the biggest concerns incoming high school students have is the locker. Instead of lugging their stuff around in one bag, students now have a place to store everything safely. The best part about the locker is being able to personalize it with photos, drawings, magazine clippings, and anything else that makes it feel comfortable. Ease locker fears by purchasing a combination lock and practice before school starts.

New school: If your student has to go to a new school, it may seem overwhelming at first. Explore the school’s website with your child, or better yet – explore the new school. The better your child understands the school layout and rules, the easier the first day will be. Many schools have tours and orientation days.

New schedule: With different classes in different rooms on different days, high school schedules can seem confusing during the first few weeks. A few weeks before school begins, check with your school to see when schedules are ready so that your child can have some time to get comfortable with the new routine. Encourage him to ask a teacher or other school staff for help.


New academic tools

Time management: Work together on a schedule and develop an organizational system with your student. Acknowledge and make allowances for anxiety. At first, your student may need to carry everything for all classes all the time in order to feel prepared.

Skills preparation: Summarizing, paraphrasing, and identifying main or important ideas and details are three skills that are essential. After reading a book or watching a show, have kids orally summarize what happened, or have them recount the most important events.

Note-taking: The workload and pace really pick up in high school, so note-taking is going to be critical.  Start encouraging your child to develop a method of shorthand.

Writing grocery lists and directions are simple ways for kids to practice.

Show them your own writing shortcuts. Note-taking is not automatic; the more examples kids see, the quicker they’ll acquire the skill.


Social concerns

New friends:  One crucial area of worry for high school students is the social scene. You can help ease their trepidation by opening lines of communication and providing a sympathetic ear. Kids’ worries and concerns about fitting in and making friends may seem trivial to adults, but for kids, these worries often trump academics. Listen to their concerns and advise them on basic social skills. Encourage them to join group conversations. Discuss how to join in without interrupting, to add something relevant to conversation.

Socializing online: Online use of social media will ramp up during high school. The average teenager sends over 3,000 text messages a month. Make sure your kids understand what they say and do online may come back to hurt them – or hurt others. Set guidelines for use of social media. Make sure you are able to regularly monitor your child’s access to text messaging and social media sites like Facebook. Increased awareness allows parents to step in and talk to their children before issues spiral out of control.