Who better to give advice about how to support teens than the teens themselves? They are the ones navigating through the challenges of life and a new school year, juggling sports practices, club meetings, homework and often much more.
Bainbridge Youth Services is launching a new platform for youth voices, titled “This I Know.” The monthly column will showcase student viewpoints, most often through their own stories.
With the start of the new school year, 35 Bainbridge High School upper classmen were asked to give advice to parents and guardians of incoming freshmen. Here’s what they had to say:
What I wish my parents had said to me when I was a freshman…
• You are enough.
• Your grades do not define you; you are not your GPA; your value is greater than any grade or sports team or college.
• You are going to do great, and change is hard, but you can do hard things.
• Learning is the most important thing, not grades. Don’t worry and be stressed out about the future. Enjoy all the fun classes and moments.
• My parents knew that I would do fine in high school, but I wish that they told me that high school is only four years and that you have to have fun with these four years because you can’t really go back and change them. I wish they also told me to relax and not be stressed about college yet, there is quite a bit of time to do that later.
• Sometimes your friends in middle school aren’t your friends in high school, and that’s OK.
• “I believe in you!” Sometimes the little things, such as occasional words of encouragement, can go a long way. And “Life is not a race.” It is super easy to get caught in the mindset to rush through high school, learn to drive, get a job, get a boyfriend, etc. Teens need to know that it is OK to take their time through things and focus on their mental health and well-being. There is inevitably going to be bumps in the road where your freshman may be upset and get discouraged. Parents, this is normal! High school is not a linear path. There will be ups and downs for everyone. High school does not have to be solely a race off to college. It can also be super fun and memorable at the same time. Emphasize the importance of living in the moment rather than fretting about the uncertainty of the future. And please tell them that it is OK if they do not know what field of study/career that they may want to go into! Throughout high school, EVERYONE asks teenagers what career path they are planning on following, and it can be overwhelming. Especially for the kids that have no idea what they are interested in doing!
• I wish they had told me there would be lots of trusted adults to talk to at school.
• I with they would have told me that my best was good enough and that trying extracurricular activities is a big deal and very important.
What I appreciated my parents doing during my freshman year was…
• My parents were incredibly supportive. They were there for me when I needed them and were willing to take a step back when I was OK by myself.
• Not pressure me too much to fill my schedule and be busy all the time. They supported me through all the choices I made about my future and allowed me the time to breath when I was feeling overwhelmed.
• Freshman year is a big transition and it is important for teens to know that their parents are there for them. I appreciate that my parents worked hard to carve out time to be together as a family. Going on walks and playing games together took my mind off school and social stressors while bringing our family closer together.
• Encouraged me to sign up for a club/sport.
• Ask me how my days were going but not make it a big deal.
• I do something active, talk to my parents, go somewhere peaceful to relax and think.
• Breathe, take a break, talk to someone, find extra support.
My Suggestion for parents of incoming high schoolers is…
• Don’t check your child’s grades on Skyward every day. It is a completely understandable thing for parents to want their children to succeed, but the pressure put on children to be getting perfect grades can seriously affect their mental health. Yes, school is important, grades are important. Although those things are both important, it isn’t worth sacrificing your child’s mental well-being over.
• Understand that this can be a big change for kids. They are going to experience so many new and exciting things. But so many things can change. For me, changes in my friend group were tough. Kids also might find themselves feeling a lot of pressure from different places. Instead of adding to the pressure, let your kid find their own pathway and support them.
• While freshman year is one of the most challenging years in high school, I strongly recommend that parents take a step back. Your children are entering young adulthood and are getting to know their limits. Don’t push them to take all APs and Honors classes. They have enough going on and they know what’s right for them.
• Give your students a little bit of breathing room to figure out who they are and who their friends really are.
• Always be open to talking with your kid and being there to support them throughout the year.
Editor’s note: Bainbridge Youth Services is a nonprofit organization that offers free, confidential mental health counseling, free tutoring and job services to youth 13 to 21 years old. Check out the website at www.askbys.org.