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How Parents Can Help Ease the Transition from Eighth to Ninth Grade

Authored By: 
George Higgins, Headmaster

Now that middle school is coming to an end and students know where they will be attending high school next year, there is a little preparation that can be done this summer to help facilitate a comfortable, successful move to a new school this September.  Fear, stress, and anxiety don’t have to be stumbling blocks even if they can’t be entirely removed.

Which brings me to my first point:

It’s perfectly natural for a new freshman to be intimidated about starting high school.  Even if he/she is masking it well, err on the side of caution and assume that there is some degree of anxiety going on behind the bright eyes.  Calmly and cautiously acknowledge anticipated concerns and discuss possible strategies or solutions for addressing these concerns.

Make sure your child is academically prepared for ninth-grade classes.  Essay writing and reading comprehension are going to be crucial to every student’s success in high school.  Maybe a summer school English class would be a good idea to make sure those skills are enhanced, not weakened, during the long vacation.

The same applies for math.  If your child doesn’t have the essential math skills on which to support high school mathematics, then the student will flounder throughout the three (preferably four) years of math needed for a college-bound student.

Utilizing an enrichment program during the months before high school could be a huge factor easing this transition.  Studies show that there is a loss of learning during the summer months.  In contrast, research shows that learning over the summer can boost success in schoolwork. 

Strengthening study skills and test-taking strategies help to get ready for college preparatory courses.  Rather than enrolling in a lengthy summer session, perhaps a few hours a week a couple of months before September could be devoted to working with a tutor who will review the mechanics of being a good student.

Encourage peer interaction in a non-academic setting that allows students to develop the skills that will help facilitate the most important desire of any teenager - socializing! Learning how to fit in, flirt, be “cool,” or accepted by a certain group are all monumentally important to kids.  If they aren’t successful at it, academic success will usually be adversely affected.

Give your child opportunities to stretch his/her comfort zone through protected experiences.  Emotional and personal growth is the underpinning of any happy high schooler.  Does your child have specific talents or unique hobbies?  Many organizations offer seminars, after-school classes, or weekend courses that are fun, educational, and will pair a student with other like-minded students.  How about having your child join you at the gym for an aerobics class, or the two of you join a yoga group?  Finding non-academic, positive experiences that would appeal to your teenager only requires a little investigation.  You might be surprised what you find.

Remember that everyone feels defeated occasionally, whether by test grades, gossip, challenging course material, or missing out on a social event.  Create an atmosphere the facilitates an open, non-judgmental dialogue and you will help your budding teenager have a much happier start to these final school years.