Must-Read Tips for Prepping Teens (& Parents) for High School

Gulp.

We officially have a high school kid.

While I didn’t birth this young man from my fleshy loins, I did provide him with lots of love, a stable home, and guidance during his transition from a little boy to a young man.

When I first met my stepson, he was a chubby-faced, tad full in the tummy region, giggly and stout boy. He was obsessed with bowling, bike riding, Minecraft, and surviving on Jack’s frozen pizzas.

Flash forward to today, he is tall and lithe with a well-defined jawline, sparkling blue eyes, dimples, and a smile that makes even the older ladies swoon and blush. He can always be found in the neighborhood cul-de-sac performing layups, throwing a football around on a field, rolling around on the living room floor with his almost two-year-old sister, or counting calories so that he can “stay in shape for football and the ladies.”

Um, yeah. It’s like that. Complete 180, I tell ya!?

Oh, man. I need a boozy fruit drink and it’s not even 5 PM yet.

teenager at high school | tips to help teen prepare for high school

Before my strapping teen runs off to roam the halls of his new high school, meet new faces, and make plans to attend his first high school party, I’ve crafted this mini list of tips to help him, and other teens, rock freshman year.

Okay, mom and dad, time to pass the phone, iPad, laptop, etc. to your growing baby: the mighty freshman.

Well, hello there!

Welcome to the most memorable years of your life, high school.

Seriously.

Don’t worry, high school isn’t all that scary. It’s hard work, but it’s truly fun and exciting. 20, 30, heck 60 years from now, you will be recounting your high school days like they happened yesterday. So, you gotta make it count, right? Just like the rest of life, high school is what you make of it.

Here are 10 tips to help you master your first year of high school and beyond.

Let’s jump right in as I am sure you’ve got snaps, tweets, texts, and tags, already begging for your attention.

1. Try to get enough sleep

Seriously, catching your zzz’s do matter. This is when you do the most growing and when your brain can chillax so you can be bright and fueled during the day. To perform at your best, you need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every day. Yup, that much! So, after dinner and schoolwork, you may think twice about staying up till midnight snap chatting your crew.

How are you going to ace your English book quiz on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” beat the other team, or win meme wars with your friends if your brain is only running at 30%?

The fact is, you’re not. So, get your rest. Mmmk.

2. Learn to manage your time wisely

Between homework and extracurricular activities (don’t even get me started on trying to find time to hang out with your GF or BF), you’re going to need to learn how to manage your time efficiently.

This is probably a smart time to start using your calendar and reminders on your phone to keep track of sports practices, school meetings, and major assignments that are due.

Show mom and dad that you’re organized and on top of it, and you may be lucky to find a little more freedom thrown your way.

3.  Master your independence

In middle school, your teachers and parents helped you out quite a bit. Likely, A LOT more than you think. Well, now you’re getting older, my friend, so you’re expected to act and behave as a young adult.

You want your freedom and all those fun and thrilling privileges that go along with it, right? Well, first you need to learn how to rely on yourself more to get things done.

Need a sandwich? The ingredients are in the fridge. Are your favorite jeans dirty and you want to wear them to the movies tomorrow? Maybe, it’s time to start mastering how to wash your clothes.

If you want your independence, you must learn to become more self-reliant, all while making smart decisions.

Know that when you make poor decisions about your school career or turn in sloppy assignments or late reports, that’s on you. Being an independent person means taking responsibility for your actions and not relying on mom or dad to bail you out when you “forgot” your science project was due today.

4. Ask questions in class

Be the hero! Ask questions. It is likely others do too and are hoping that someone else will raise their hand. It is best to ask questions in class, write the answer down, and be prepared, then to come home confused and waste time googling this and that to make sense of your assignment.

It’s also wise to have a classmate that you can talk to about assignments should you have questions outside of school hours. You know, for those days you sat in third period daydreaming of the hottie in front of you instead of listening to your math teacher explain scary algebraic equations like (y4x2 + 2xy – y)/(x – 1) = 12

Yeah, it happens. But, try not to make it a habit, okay?

daughter and mother reading together | tips to help prepare your teen for high school

5.  Take the teacher’s advice

If your history teacher tells you to watch a 30-minute YouTube video about the collapse of the Berlin Wall when you get home, watch the dang video. Your teachers made the assignments, they know what you need to know for class, and lastly, they know what is best for you when it comes to completing an assignment THEY created.

Now is not the time to act like a know it all. Listening to your teacher’s advice tends to help you in the end.

You’re still young and need a tad of guidance, so take whatever tips you can from them when they are willing to help.

6. Don’t cram for a big test the night before

If you study for a test for several days or a week, it’s likely you’ll be less stressed about it and perform better. Unless you’ve recently been inducted into Mensa International, and have a photographic memory, it is ill-advised to cram everything into your head the night before the test.

Start getting into the groove of being prepared a few days ahead of time so the night before is just a simple review before you land in bed.

7. Don’t change who you are to fit in

Stay true to yourself and don’t allow your buddies to define who you are. You are fresh and unique. Don’t become a cookie-cutter version of someone else just to impress another. Be authentic.

It’s hard some days, yet you’ll appreciate and enjoy life more when you can just be your sweet, awesome self.

If your friends don’t accept you for who you are, break away from them. Sad to say, but you won’t be in contact with most of your high school friends later in life. I am a social butterfly and I only talk to maybe two high school friends. Don’t spend lots of time trying to fit in, just focus on yourself and the goals you have laid out for your future.

Lastly, make sure the people you hang out with align with your future goals. If you hang out with friends who don’t care about their grades or going to college, you will likely adopt that same mentality.

8. Remember that freshman year counts

Most people think that your junior and senior year are the only two years to worry about in high school. In reality, all four years are equally important. Just a heads up, your grades during freshman year still count towards your GPA.

And, while you may not have college, trade school, or another educational opportunity on the brain just yet, it will be there very soon, and you don’t want to have to stress over how to fix your GPA after being a slacker during your underclassmen years.

Bust your tail during freshman year because that’s the easiest your high school years will ever be. Use your freshman year to set a stable foundation to ensure success for your upperclassmen years. Your future self will give you mad props for it!

9. Learn to speak up for yourself

In middle school, when problems came up, likely your parents, or your whippersnapper grandma, took care of it for you. In high school, you will be viewed differently. You will be treated as a young adult and teachers will expect that you will talk to them when you have an issue or concern.

If you are struggling with a class, experiencing issues at home, or confronting bullies in the hallways, you should be the one to approach a teacher or school counselor.

Your teachers and counselors are available to hear you out, whether it’s on break or after school. They have your back. Use them as a resource.

If you talk with your teachers and counselors, and still feel like you’re not getting results, then definitely involve your parents.

10.  Discover your passions

High school friends may not stick around forever, but your passions will. Take this time to learn more about yourself, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy. Join some clubs in high school. Explore some electives that pique your interest.

I was in journalism throughout high school and my all-time favorite memories all stem from that fun and inclusive environment. Our high school newsmagazine traveled to national competitions, won many awards, (even yours truly, wink wink), and our team became a well-oiled machine. In high school, I learned how much writing meant to me and how important it was to keep some aspect of it in my day to day life.

If you like working with your hands, try a woodworking class. If you like dancing at parties? Peep the dance club. If you enjoy staying up to date on worldly issues, consider joining the Model UN club. 

Discover what makes you happy and manifest it!

These next four years are going to fly by. I promise you that. So, make the most of it, have some fun, and make your parents proud.

You got this!

And, yes, you get extra credit for reading this. Wellll, not really. I can’t actually give you extra credit, but if there is ice cream in the freezer, you can have a bowl. Don’t worry, I’ll distract your parents.


advice for parents of high school freshman| mom taking picture of her and her family laying on the grass

Hiya mom and dad, likely your kiddo is over the moon that they don’t have to read another bloody word.

Now, it’s time to buckle down and do your reading homework.

Here are six tips to help parents survive, ahem, rock at raising a high school kid.

1. Start setting expectations and limits

If you haven’t set up expectations and limits, now is the time. This is when you should be having regular conversations about drugs, alcohol, sex, and internet safety.

You can’t talk about these topics enough. Do it so much they roll their eyes every time the word “sex” or “marijuana” comes up.

Chris is already at the eye-rolling “I got it, already” stage, but we’re going to keep the talks going for good measure because that’s what good parents do, right?

You should be talking to your teen about the specific expectations you have and what the consequences are for disobeying them.

If they have a curfew at 10 PM and they arrive home at 11 PM, what can they expect?

If they are caught smoking or some other ill-advised activity, what repercussions will there be?

If they continuously “forget” to do their homework and have multiple missing assignments, what are the consequences?

Remind your teen that with responsibility comes special privileges. For example, if they’re getting good grades in school, they will be more likely to have the chance to go bowling with friends on a school night or have the opportunity to go to their bestie’s volleyball tournament over the weekend.

2. Accept that some days will be rough

Your teen is a ball of hormones. One day, your daughter may be all candy and roses and looking up to you adoringly. The next second could be “I hate you, get out of my room” with an exclamation point and a slam of the bedroom door.  

You will not get through the high school years without some level of conflict with your teen. Like with labor, birthing a baby is a joyous occasion but involves some level (A LOT ) of pain. It’s perfectly okay and it’s expected that your kid will “hate” you at times. Remember, you’re their parent first, not their friend. Your kids don’t know what’s best for them.

They may not always like it when you do spot checks of their assignment calendar, review their homework assignments, or insist that they sit at the kitchen table when completing their homework, but sometimes you gotta play the “bad guy” to ensure they stay on track and keep their eye on the prize. Graduation day!

3. Rock your sense of humor regularly

Raising teens is no joke. It’s rough, mama. ROUGH.

You must learn to just laugh at the weird things that come up. And, believe me, there will be weird things. Just remember YOUR high school years, ahem.

I am forever texting my husband memes about parenting life and all the ridiculous stuff that parents endure. If you don’t laugh, it will be much harder to keep your wits about you. And, as a toddler mom too, I need all the wits, sanity savers, caffeine, and well-wishes I can get.

4. Stay positive

Transitioning to high school from middle school is exciting yet can be nerve-wracking and scary for underclassmen. By positively encouraging your teen and getting them excited about upcoming classes, fun extracurriculars, and other memorable events, like homecoming or prom, helps.

Chris already knows what sports he wants to try out for and the school clubs he wants to check out once he “graces the high school campus with his presence.” When Chris talks about school activities and his academic goals, we are excited with him. We ask him questions. We are positive and genuine when we tell him how much we look forward to attending his games and tournaments. When he hurdles for the first time in track and field, he knows I will be in the front row belting out a joyous Mexican grito (I’m kind of a pro at it.)

While it is hard sometimes not to dwell on all the costs associated with his athletic shoes, sports equipment, and shuffling him back and forth. We know these years are going to fly by right quick. We will make it work.

Research informs us that “a positive appraisal of an event typically leads to better outcomes.”

And, they’re totally right.

5. Embrace all the changes

These next four years, your child is going to grow up quite a bit. Your daughter may begin to begin looking and acting more like a young lady. She may become more interested in hanging with friends and having a boyfriend versus hanging out with mom and pops in front of the tube on Friday nights.

Your son may start caring about how his hair looks, the style of underwear he wears, and the way he smells.

Remember those days when you would have to beg him to take a shower and change his underwear, and now all of a sudden, he is obsessed with showering and sporting Axe body spray? How times change.

You have a young adult in the making. Embrace the changes. They are growing up, Ma and Pa!

6. Show your love and affection

While your teen may have entered the stage of complete and utter disregard for hugs or any other type of affection from their parents, they need to be shown love more now than they ever did before.

Being a teenager is a rough in-between kind of spot. You’re still a kid, yet not quite an adult. Your opinion matters, yet not always valued. You’re told to act more like an adult, yet you’re still treated like a child. It’s like being stuck between two different dimensions.

All these different parental and societal expectations and responsibilities can be frustrating, intimidating, and scary.  

Sometimes a hug, lending an ear, or just a simple “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” goes a long way.

What tips would you give to parents of high school freshman? What advice would you give to someone just entering high school?

son standing in forefront with parents standing in background | advice for teens entering high school

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Author: Brandi Wiatrak

Hey, Mama! I'm Violet's mom and Chris' step-mama, Brandi. This space is a peek into my cold-brew fueled life navigating motherhood and the world. With brutal honesty, humor, and sarcasm, I talk about the joys (and sucks) of parenting, ways to live a simple & sane life, and awesome adventures to embark on with your family. Come aboard my crazy train! Wine and Gerber Puffs included.

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