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How to Quell 9th-Grade Angst

SATURDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Parents can play a key role in helping their children transition successfully from middle school to the more complex and challenging environment of high school, according to an expert from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Success or failure during the ninth-grade year often sets the tone for a student's entire high school career," said Jose Villalba, an associate professor of counseling, in a university news release. "Adjusting to the exponential increase in workload is the first major hurdle students and their parents need to get over, but navigating social situations can also be fraught with peril."

A smooth shift for incoming high school freshman could have a lasting positive effect on their social and academic success, he noted.

To help your children start high school off on the right foot, he suggested the following:

  • Help your children choose the right classes and offer encouragement as they face increased academic pressure.
  • If you suspect your child is having a difficult time adjusting to high school socially or academically, contact the school's counselor and ask for help.
  • Ask questions about what is going on in your child's life and don't settle for one-word answers.
  • Advocate for your children when necessary. That may involve reaching out to teachers and being persistent.
  • Talk to your children about their dreams, goals and interests to help steer them to the right classes, activities, sports and volunteer opportunities.
  • Discuss "what if" scenarios with your children to test how they would react in certain difficult or potentially dangerous situations, such as being approached by a stranger online, being offered drugs or getting bullied. This may provide them with some positive ways of handling those situations should they arise.

Parents should keep in mind that, in some ways, high school may be more difficult than it was even a decade ago. Villalba noted.

"Many things about it are a lot harder," he said. "With social media and constant media access, students are bombarded by instant images and feedback on what's stylish, what's popular, what's clever or dumb. It can't be easy to date, to make friends, to make mistakes."

More information

The National Education Association provides tips on helping your children succeed in high school.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Wake Forest University, news release, Aug. 8, 2012

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