high school kids

10 Things Your Kids Need to Get Right in High School

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High school isn’t just about showing up. Attendance is critical, but it’s only the first step. High school has the potential to be an opportunity-laden springboard to the rest of your child’s life. Trade, college, career? No matter what the future holds, tomorrow can either be nurtured or sabotaged during those turbulent years known as “9th -12th grade.”

So what can dads do to keep the ball rolling? Well, awareness is an important first step. We can’t do it for them, but we can do a lot to help steer our high school kids towards success. Here are 10 things your kids need to get right in high school:

1. Relationships

In 9th grade, it’s still tough to be an individual and get away with it. That’s why, even if your kids have solid values, it’s important that they surround themselves with the right friends. We’re not saying they should be cliquish, or reject “the wrong kind of people,” just that your kids need to reach out from a position of strength.

2. Study habits

This is high school; there are no “do-overs” anymore. Help your child think of school as their “job.” This is the time to develop a strong work ethic. Good study habits mean never having to play catch up. Never having to play catch up means more time for extra-curricular activities. Good study habits are win-win.

3. Ownership

By the time college comes around, responsibility for your child’s education has shifted fully to your child. That’s how it should be, but it takes the full four years of high school to get ready.

4. Delayed gratification

We’re talking long-term vs. short-term gratification. This includes things like:

– “Staying out late tonight vs. doing well on my exams.”

– “A couple of beers before driving vs. my college scholarship.”

– “Working too many hours at a job to buy a car vs. getting into a good college when I graduate.”

– “Making the wrong choice about sex vs. college, career and the rest of my life…”

5. Dating

There is tremendous pressure in high school to date, fool around, have sex and “play the field.” Making the wrong decisions about dating compromises relationships, causes long-term emotional damage, treats other people like objects, denies fundamental values, cheapens physical love, exposes teens to life-changing diseases, and sets in motion patterns of male/female interaction that they will still be dealing with decades into the future.

6. Curfew

Simple, but far-reaching. Trust breeds trust, and mistrust breeds mistrust. Work hard with your teen to establish reasonable expectations, then quickly reinforce good choices with increased trust. The result will be self-policing that works far better than the harsh and rigid alternative.

7. Fun

Encourage your high-schooler to remember they’re still a kid. Good, clean fun is often forgotten in the midst of posturing, adult role-playing, jobs, responsibilities, and the shift in focus that’s necessary from grades 9-12. Church youth programs are often a great way for teens to have fun in an affirming and safe environment.

8. Balance

Your child – and this is certainly related to #7 – must enter the adult world with a sense of balance. Serious and fun. Study and play. Work and recreation. Dating and hanging out with the crowd. Restrictions and liberty.

9. Civics

Don’t tell your child what to think, just make sure that they do. By the time your high-schooler turns 18 their senior year, they should be ready to participate in politics, elections etc. If there’s one thing this nation needs right now from its young people, it’s creative, enthusiastic participation in what it means to be a free American. Don’t tell your child what to think, just make sure that they do.

10. Further education

Like it or not, college, trade school, military service or technical training must be a part of the conversation from day one. No matter what they end up doing, it’s critical that your teen have choices. The more prepared they are by 12th grade, the more choices there are. No one wants their career chosen for them because they wasted four years of preparation.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it means to have a well-balanced life?”

If there was one thing in high school I would have done differently, it would have been… I say that because…