It may seem hard to believe, but you have a child who is about to begin high school. The first day is just around the corner, and it's likely that your teenager is already imagining the challenges and opportunities that a new school might bring. Depending on your child's personality, they may be nervous, excited, scared, or all of the above.

It's important to be aware of the emotional impact that starting high school may have on your child. You can provide support by making time to talk to your new high school student about how they are feeling. Through open communication and encouragement, you can help your child navigate this exciting and uncertain time.

Open Communication: Be Available, Not Pushy
It's okay to try to communicate with your child by asking questions about their feelings--but don't push for concrete answers. Many adolescents struggle to put their feelings into words, so pushing for a discussion may cause added pressure. Knowing that you are always there to talk will help your teen feel comfortable working through their feelings on their own, or with your help.

Share Stories
Even though your child may be reluctant to talk, they will likely be happy to listen. Find opportunities to share stories, both good and bad, about your own high school years. This will help them understand that they are not alone in their thoughts, and may help them open up.

The Power of Control
According to the National Institutes of Health, parents can help reduce a child's stress levels by giving the child opportunities to exhibit control. Consider using the rest of the summer break, before high school starts, to explore possible options. Your child might want to have more freedom to decorate their room, or get involved in a new sport or activity. If you encourage your child to have a proactive attitude, they will be in the right state of mind to conquer challenges they may face in high school.

Encourage Extracurriculars
The camaraderie that comes from extracurricular activities can help create a stable base for a child's social interactions at school. For some kids, sports provide a perfect outlet for competition and teamwork. Other students prefer the artistic expression found in the school band or drama club. By helping your child explore their favorite activities, you increase the likelihood that they will meet people who share common interests.

Suggest Exciting Classes
Most schools offer time for elective classes, where your child can explore things beyond math, science, and literature. Taking this time to try out different disciplines--like photography, human psychology, or politics--could open up a completely new world. Your child is more likely to be excited about school if they develop a strong interest in their classes.

HealthAhead Hint: New School, New Opportunities
All transitions in life require some of trial and error. The move to high school can be stressful, but you can help ease the transition by providing your child with support and guidance. Remind them of all the opportunities that come with starting a new school: the chance to make new friends, start new activities, and join new clubs or teams. Encouraging your child to become engaged with their high school community is a great way to build their self-esteem and independence--plus, you'll be helping to create a solid foundation for them to thrive.