Dear Parents of the Class of 2021,
High School is hard, there’s no doubt about that.
Entering high school is scary for both you and your child. As a parent I’m sure you want the best for them: to excel in their studies, create a solid friend group of good kids, explore their interests, and hopefully find out a little more about themselves at the end of a four year journey.
I’m no parent and I would never try to tell anyone how to parent their child or how to raise them because, frankly, I have no idea where I would begin. Although I do have two amazing parents at home, no family, parent, or high schooler are the same. What may have worked for my parents may not work for you, and vice versa. Instead of telling you what your incoming high schooler needs or what you should do, I will simply try to shed light on some of the intricacies of the confusing, complicated, unique, but nonetheless amazing 21st century mind and heart of a high schooler.
We have a lot going on. So please understand that when we undeservingly snap at you, we truly don’t mean the harsh things we say or the cold shoulder we may give.
High school has become more demanding than ever–and not just academically. Each year the bar is set higher and higher; it takes more to get into a college, more to stand out, and ultimately more to succeed in what we do. It’s a lot of pressure, especially for a 14 year old to handle. Our generation has learned to balance about 50 things at one time and become good at all of them in order to reach the successes we want. Freshman year is a crash course to this phenomenon that entails good times and bad.
We don’t mind when you tell us no, but please tell us why you feel that way.
I have to admit, this one gets me. As teens, we have big dreams and often bigger expectations of just about everything–our weekend, our summer, our friends, everything. When we are told we can’t do something, it’s a let down. But we will accept it… as long as you give an explanation. There is no worse explanation than “because we said so.” Please, if you can, tell us why you said no to going to that concert in the city or hanging out at his or her house. It will save a lot of arguing and will give us a chance to see–from your perspective–why you said no.
We don’t know everything (although we often think we do), but we do understand, know, think, and can contribute more than you expect.
High schoolers are often on the receiving end of belittlement or underestimation from adults. Although you may not mean to do it or if it’s not necessarily from you, adults can treat high schoolers like clueless, reckless children. We know and understand more than you think. We do not know everything, that’s for sure, evidenced by our lack of judgment or our failure to weigh consequences at times. But, in this day and age, we are exposed to more information, stories, people, anecdotes, and experiences than ever before. We have a surplus of thoughts and ideas, please let us share them.
We have grown up with self phones, social media, Snapchat, Google, Facebook and more. Please don’t make fun of us for using what we know. You would have done it, too.
Most times I am around adults, I hear about three jokes about my “addiction” to my phone. The classics are “Could you survive without that thing?”, “Why are you taking so many selfies?”, or “Oh, are you telling your friends what you ate for breakfast?”
We know. We get it. We are constantly glued to our phones and are constantly communicating with people we know in varying capacities. You have to understand that we have had phones and social media our entire teenage lives–it’s what we know. Sometimes we do need you to remind us to put down our phones and engage in some human contact, but please don’t constantly criticize for the use of our iPhones. I can assure you that if you were 16 and Snapchat was around, that dog filter would be on your face as well.
Please don’t criticize my friends before you get to know them, but be there for me if they leave me behind.
Switching, finding, and losing friends isn’t something unique to our generation. I’m sure all of our parents experienced similar things in high school. Personally, I have been lucky to have basically the same friend group throughout school, but often times that isn’t the case. Give our new, different, or unexpected friends a chance before deciding if they will be a positive or negative influence on our lives. We know sometimes you see things in our friends that we fail to notice, but remember that we could see attributes in our friends that you don’t see as well. Get to know them personally. Ask them questions about their lives, interests, and ideas. It will go a long way in our eyes and our friends’ eyes as well.
We know you have our best intentions in mind. Sometimes, however, as hard as it is, we need to make our own mistakes to really learn a lesson that will help us in the future.
Like I said before, I am no parent. I can’t imagine how hard it is to let your kid make a mistake that may hurt them or let them experience a possibly dangerous environment. But sometimes we need to experience, mess up, and learn on our own. I would say I have relatively strict parents (whom I adore), which has caused me to often have to beg to go to a concert or stay out 30 minutes past my usual curfew. The moments that they succumbed to my perfected puppy eyes are moments that I have learned responsibility, control, and respect for the trust my parents have put in me. I am surely not a perfect child. I have made plenty of mistakes, but each time I made a mistake, I learned from it.
I’m going to fail a test or two. Remember to remind me that I am more than the grades I receive.
Even if we act like we don’t care about our grades, part of us does. Part of us is always disappointed when that big test comes back with a D or when we get a B in a class we could’ve gotten an A in. Encourage us to live up to our intellectual potential and hold us accountable to the levels we can reach, but don’t dictate our value on the number of A’s on our report card. If we aren’t trying, point it out. If we are trying and still get a C, show us your admiration of our hard work and your understanding for the grade we didn’t expect.
Just because I don’t hold your hand or want another hug, I still love you as much as I did when I was 5.
As much us we bicker, banter, and often give you sass, we love you so much. You are our parent and you hold a special weight in our hearts and always will. Even when we drift apart and don’t share as much a we did before, it doesn’t mean we don’t care about you. High school is a handful and we forget to thank you, appreciate you, or tell you how much we love you. We are still figuring out who we are and often that causes us to want to be more independent than before.
Your high schooler will need you throughout this 4 year journey, even if they pretend they won’t. So to the parent reading this, thank you in advance.
Best of luck,