Parents, they’re not in middle school anymore

Middle to high school

You know how it goes – you find yourself in completely unfamiliar surroundings and you summon the famous line from Wizard of Oz – “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Well, parents and students tend to feel the same way when kids make the transition from middle to high school, and I’m here to tell you that once they cross that threshold, “They’re not in middle school anymore,” in more ways than one.

So what’s the big deal? Well, for starters, ninth grade is the year for parents to slowly begin to relinquish the reins and increase both freedom and expectations for their children. This means holding kids accountable for:

  • following directions for homework and class work
  • keeping track of their own schedules, including due dates, practices, and meetings
  • cleaning their rooms and doing chores, especially if they haven’t up to this point
  • learning to do their own laundry
  • opening a bank account and learning how personal finances should be managed
  • accepting consequences for both good and bad decisions

I imagine that some of you are wincing as you read this, some are rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, right!” and some are already planning how they will roll out these new expectations with a minimum of weeping and gnashing of teeth… mostly on your end. Trust me that none of these intentions are out of reach. All are quite doable, with some work on your part to educate your kids in these areas and remain consistent in your expectations that your kids are capable of accomplishing all of these goals.

When they do, they will quickly determine that they are indeed growing up, that you trust them with greater responsibilities, and that you have expectations that they have to live up to. They will appreciate beyond words your respect for them as adults, and most will gladly rise to the occasion. The key, though, is to acknowledge entering high school as the milestone it is. Sit down with your 8th graders and tell them exactly what they will be learning in the new year, how it will feel different, and how much you trust that they can handle it. Then patiently set about teaching your kids how to do their own laundry, how to deposit their money into their own account, and how to organize their calendars so they can remind you of an upcoming game, rather than the other way around.

Steps like these, taken each year of high school and building upon the previous year, will foster young adults, who, by the time they’re legal adults ready to enter the next stage of their lives, will do so with aplomb.

For more tips like these, check out my book Teenagers 101.

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