Don’t you just love freshmen?
They’re one of my favorite groups of students- a marvelous blend of big kid psyche and little kid sass, of sophistication and naiveté, of brilliance and idiocy. I taught them science for years, watching them morph from September until June. I can say, without a doubt, no one changes as drastically, and in such a relatively short period of time, as high school freshmen.
Moms, here is my unsolicited advice if you have freshmen starting high school. (Freshmen, listen up!)
Keep a tight rein on your freshmen!
Mom, your kid may look more mature and responsible than ever—and she or he could very well be more mature and responsible—but the beginning of the school year is not the time to extend latitude.
Think of it this way…
EVERYTHING will be new!
And now, you’re going to add New freedom on top of all that crazy adjusting that has to take place?
I don’t think so.
EVERYBODY, including the custodians, will be older than the freshmen. That alone can be a shock to your system. (Especially after ruling the school during their eighth grade year.)
Having familiar parameters for them creates a safe, predictable island in their tumultuous life where they won’t get blindsided. Familiar boundaries let freshmen know what they are supposed to do, and when they are supposed to do it.
While school may be mad new, home expectations will be comfortably unsurprising.
Wait Until the First Successful Report Card
You can loose the reins after the first successful report card. At that point, most freshmen will understand the building, their teachers, the library, their schedule, their locker (maybe not the locker), their peers (umm… and maybe not their peers), etc.
At that point, new freedoms can be more readily assimilated into the freshman lifestyle—now that the new school isn’t so new anymore, and high school life feels more manageable. As your freshmen become more savvy, and can juggle time for group projects and long-term assignments with ease (despite navigating that new crush, and negotiating that mean kid), a satisfactory report card is proof he or she is better prepared to make appropriate independent decisions.
If You Don’t Wait
Suppose you decide to reward your stellar students with later curfews and looser boundaries. Supposed your dynamic daughter starts to flounder. Suppose your super son starts losing sleep. Now what?
Once you tamp down on that rising Mom Anxiety, you’ll assess the unexpected report card and decide to rein your kids in. However, it’s a little like closing the barn door after the horse gets out.
Your kids won’t welcome the return of the old rules and curfews. It will feel like punishment to them. Or worse, they might feel like you don’t have faith in them anymore. They’ll worry that they’ve let you down, and will feel ashamed (something we never want to have happen!).
And, what about you? In the face of their blowback, might you feel more Mom Guilt added to the Mom Guilt you already lug around? Probably. Might you feel like you let down your kids? I hope not!
I can’t tell you how often I saw this scenario unfold when I was teaching high school… for all the grades, although it was always worse for freshmen. Low grades on the first 9th grade report card dashed that beautiful hope they had at the start of school. You know, the one where they believed they could handle high school, and that this year would be better than last year.
You can circumvent all that drama, shame and guilt by adopting a conservative approach to high school before the year begins.
Enjoy the fresh start of the new school year!
Right now, the possibilities are endless!
For more tips for the upcoming school year, check out my course on rocking Back-to-School.