Next week, hundreds of nervous new freshmen will be wandering the halls of Platt, Maloney and Wilcox Tech. To help reduce the anxiety that comes with change and the unknown, familiarity is the key, says Platt High School Guidance Director Sue Vitcavage.
Before School Starts
“First and foremost, it’s important to attend any orientation programs available,” she emphasizes. (Freshman orientation is today for two of the high schools, with Platt at 9:30 a.m., and Maloney at 6 p.m.) These sessions give you an opportunity to meet and greet new people. You may not remember all their names, but they will be familiar faces in a new place, Vitcavage points out.
Orientation sessions also provide tours of the building so your child will know where to find his locker, where she will eat lunch, where homeroom and other classrooms are. In addition, the school buildings are open the week before school starts. Vitcavage suggests stopping by for your own private walk-through. “We absolutely allow that,” she relates. Just check in with the guidance office first so they know you are there.
Another way to help your child become more familiar with the school is to check out the school website together. There you will find information about schedules, activities and school routines that can help put your child more at ease.
“If you know friends that are going to the same school, call each other and compare schedules to see if you have classes together,” Vitcavage recommends.
Get your child adjusted to a new sleep schedule, too. Vitcavage has two children in high school this year. In her household, “Tuesday is the last day to sleep late,” she says.
Vitcavage also offers one more piece of advice: Be prepared. Make sure your child has completed any summer work such as math packets and summer reading lists. Get your school supplies in order. “You don’t need every supply, but have what you need for the first day,” she suggests--at least one notebook and a pen or pencil.
Once School Starts
If familiarity is the key to a low-stress start to high school, communication is the key to a continued positive first-year experience, according to Erin Putnam, Director of Guidance at Maloney High School. She advises parents to “keep an open dialogue with their children about what they’re experiencing at school. Let them know that it’s okay to feel a little nervous or new,” she says.
Putnam also counsels parents to make sure kids are keeping up with their homework and to keep track of what’s happening in academic courses so they will know when stressors like big exams are coming up.
Make sure your child stays healthy, Putnam urges. “Sleep is very important. Keep the schedule from becoming too full so they can have some downtime,” she says.
“Keep in touch with students’ online media, whether it be Facebook or the computer,” Putnam advocates.
If you notice that your child seems different, ask if anything is bothering him or her, Putnam stresses. Keep the lines of communication open.
Whatever your son or daughter’s new high school experience is like, take the time to share in it. Because before you know it, you’ll be reading an article about how to help your child get ready for college.