For most families with children, September is a month of new beginnings. Nowhere is this more apparent than for teens starting high school or college. These are the freshmen of the world.
While some youngsters have an easier time than others, being the new kid on campus is trying for most. As a parent, you can help your son or daughter cope.
Before school starts, make sure your child has done everything the school requires. It's a little late to read the summer reading books, but it may not be too late to write the report that is due a week after school starts.
Budget for school supplies. By the time a child gets to high school, these can be pricey. By college, they are downright expensive. If you can't afford a graphing calculator or computer, work with the school to finance or borrow one. Most schools want to help.
Even college students need some help organizing their belongings and supplies. If your child is attending college out of town, be sure she has access to a credit card, cash machine, or college account to buy books and other necessities. Tuition does not cover these.
If the freshman lives at home, remind him to stock up on what he needs. Offer to go with him to make his purchases.
Listen and Listen Again
Your freshman, whether she is at home or living in a dorm, will have questions about things neither of you even dreamed about last year. Encourage her to talk to you.
When your child talks about school, listen. Don't jump in with solutions to problems or judgments before your child has time to voice his concerns and opinions. When he was eight years old, he needed your immediate input; now he needs you to be a sounding board - one that is a better listener than talker.
Stay Close, But Stay Away
Both high school and college freshmen are getting a heady dose of independence this year. As is natural, their friends become more important to them than you are on some levels. Their lives outside the home take on enormous significance.
Ask them about their friends and make efforts to meet them. This is easier and more important at the high school level than college. Be gently persistent -- chances are your son or daughter will resist your efforts at first but will appreciate the concern in the long run.
On the other hand, resist the temptation to leave your child to her own devices. She may seem in such control of her life and in so little need of you, you will begin to lead parallel lives. This is not what your child wants or needs. Stay involved - but keep your distance.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
New friends, new surroundings, and new experiences can seem all important to freshmen. Remind your child that he is, first and foremost, a student and is in school is to get an education.
Be ready to help with a project or keep your child on schedule with one. Attend back-to-school events so that you can meet her teachers. Ask your child about her classes and her burgeoning interests.
If your child is in college, chat on the phone or in e-mails about his classes. Make time to know what he is studying and what he is thinking of majoring in.
From the minute your child started kindergarten, you have been a partner in her education. This does not end at high school or college - but it may take more work!