Drugs...sex....driving...these are just some of the issues you may be struggling with as you consider your new reality, "my child is entering high school." You may be feeling very concerned, especially if you son or daughter already seems to be basing a lot of their own decisions on what their peers do or think. You may be feeling like you're losing a tremendous amount of influence and control as your freshmen goes of to a larger school, in a new neighborhood with hundreds of older kids on campus. Well they may not be saying a word, but some of those same issues may concern them as well. And they can display that anxiety in very different ways.
Teens are struggling to exert their independence and manage new feelings and frankly, new or growing body parts. Social relationships and activities become vitally important, so kids who are unique or who may be super smart or have unusual personalities or hobbies and interests, can indeed be subjected to pretty difficult realities. Their peers may not value their brains or unusual and offbeat personalities, talents or interests and that can mean some pretty difficult and unkind moments. And if they feel alone or challenged in this new environment, they can feel ill-equipped to cope. For some kids being unique and a bit misunderstood is no big deal; for others, being a bit slower to catch up to others is also not tremendously problematic. Still for others it can mean a world spiraling out of control with no refuge and no solace. So you really need to work hard to make sure that your teen's self esteem is on solid ground, and you need to recognize the difference between growing pains and normal social development and situations that are escalating and moving into more dangerous possibilities.
Most kids deal with high school and sail through the typical highs and lows of the teenage years. But then there are the academic pressures. Most kids adjust over time to the academic challenges of longer days, tougher courses, more frequent and rigorous testing and of course the looming distant pressures of college applications. These days kids are being forced to target higher GPAs, more community service hours, more unique hobbies, adding in sports so that they can compete for those college spots. Freshmen are being asked to consider all these variables as they simply try to get used to the new curriculum and the new social landscape and fit in. Who wouldn't waver or crumble a bit?? The difference is when you begin to see possible signs of a drug problem, promiscuity, an eating disorder, alcohol use or other unhealthy patterns. And the key is to make sure you are communicating with them, listening and really hearing them and offering them coping skills to manage their anxieties so they don't turn to other destructive behaviors.
Terrible tragedies like Columbine are rare - but far less rare are the kids who have escalating difficulties coping with teen issues in high school. Though most kids will manage the rite of passing through high school, it's important not to miss the ones who are trying to hide their inability to manage. Keep a close eye on your teens, find lots of opportunities to talk with them, stay in touch with their teachers and coaches and make your home an open home for gatherings. The easiest way to know what your teen is doing and how they are feeling is to know their friends and be tuned into their conversations and activities.
Published On: September 28, 2009