Picking The Right High School

It is the season that all parents and 13 or 14-year old teens are trying to decide if their local public high school is right choice for their family, and if not, which private schools they can, and will, apply for.

If you have opened this can of worms, there are open houses, application packets, shadow days, letters of recommendation, transcript requests, and most importantly to your teen, the worry about life in high school, with or without his or her current friends.

Here are a few hints. The transition to high school is intense for every teen, so it will not hurt to start the conversation early. About now, talk to your son or daughter about high school, and the decision about where s/he will go, and for goodness sake, only give options if there really are options. If your local public school is the only option, then there you have it - no discussion, but you may want to have them shadow at that school now, when the staff is accommodating other requests. Shadowing will give your teen a sense of the school now, so when they think about the transition, there are fewer unknowns, and therefore, less stress.

Shadowing is when a teen comes to the school for a half or full day as the buddy of a current student, and attends all of the same classes with him or her. If the school says they do not allow shadowing, and you know someone who attends the school, you can call and say your child will be visiting, and ask if they attend the day with their friend, which is usually fine.

If you child gets overwhelmed by the choice, it might help to make a pro and con list about each school they are considering and then talk through the lists, comparing the schools and deciding which of the things they put on their list really matter. It is hard for parents to keep their opinions to his- or herself, but trust that your teen will realize what is important, and likely his or her decision will match yours. If not, it is compromise time - deep breath and listen hard - their opinions are important.

Remember that 8th graders tend to worry about everything - not just high school, but shoes, friends, cancer, world hunger, and what other people are saying about them. The most important gift you can give them is to help them be "present" for this wonderful year and not stress about next year! Good luck!

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