Freshman Year Survival

I survived Freshman year!   Well, not mine but my daughter Maddi’s High School Freshman year.  Honestly, this is no joke. It was one of the hardest most challenging years of my life. As a parent Maddi’s first year and this past year were undoubtedly the absolute hardest.  At least her new born year, there were books to reference, mom groups to join and a flood of family stopping by to help. Do you remember What to Expect When You’re Expecting and all the editions following from baby’s first year through toddler years?  Where is the research / self help books and mom support groups for raising teenagers? I had no idea what I was getting into this past year. And with the exception of a select few, it seems that for the most part parent’s sugarcoat what is really happening.   Everybody is doing great. Really, great?

Now don’t get me wrong, my Madd s a good kid.  She is very respectful, extremely intelligent, involved in extra school activities and socially active.  And just like all the other freshmen she is surrounded by new responsibilities, temptations, social pressures and new found freedom.  Social media does not make things easier and expectations (mine included) are high. So this is not really about Madd but more about us parents.  The Mom and Dad’s figuring out realistic expectations and letting go a little bit. It’s scary.

I want Maddi to stay on the right track and leverage all the advantages and opportunities available.   I want to guide her without being overbearing yet involved enough and available to talk when she needs me.  I don’t condone poor choices or bad behavior but I’m realistic that everyone makes mistakes. I personally don’t believe in peer pressure but understand it’s a possibility.  I cringe when I think back to our high school days (remember Mark was my highschool sweetheart). I have no regrets and hope that she makes decisions that make her proud. High school offers independence and kids need to find their own path.  Again, nerve wracking knowing all the evils in the world.

This transition from grammar school to high school is not for the weary.  The challenges of a more demanding curriculum, greater expectations in sports, social pressures, new friends and all of temptations.  

Here are things to know and a collection of tips from me and a few of my trusted mamas:

  • Transition can be difficult, new friendships and challenging school and homework.   
  • Talk to your kids about drinking, smoking, vaping, drugs and relationships.  They will be exposed even to the ones we least expect. They will be tempted to fit in and simply curious.  
  • Be patient and understanding.  They need a little extra care.
  • Have lots of open communication.  Keep your home an open and comfortable.  Home is their safe zone. They don’t need to be hounded.  They need to be comforted and given the confidence to make good decisions.  
  • Always STOP and listen.
  • If your kid isn’t comfortable talking to you, that’s ok.  Sometimes kids need to talk to other people, so make sure they have that opportunity.  
  • Teach them to trust their gut.
  • We all did what they are doing, let them make mistakes.
  • High school is a whole new level of academics.  It’s unnecessary to take all honor classes.  
  • Set expectations for curfew and reasonable bedtimes.  Stick to it.
  • Encourage them to try something new.  If sporty, join the photography club.
  • Pick your battles.  A third (or fourth) earring is not really a big deal.
  • Enable find my friend / share location on your phones.  They should be where they say they are going to be.
  • Limit and monitor social media (SnapChat is the devil).  Have a charging station to check in phones at night. You can agree to a fair time.  
  • Get a yoga membership because you are going to need it for anxiety!  

We are all going through similar struggles and it would make life a whole lot easier if we could all be honest and forewarn each other of what to expect and share best practices.  As challenging as this year has been I feel relieved and accomplished in helping Maddi reach this milestone. We have both learned many lessons (good, bad and indifferent) and have also made great new friends as well as reconfirmed some existing friendships (even though our kids are no longer hanging out or in the same school, we will always be honest with our concerns, ask for advice and have each-other to count on).  We all need a reality check and it’s nice to have fellow moms to lean on.

I’m now ready for my younger three when they make the transition to high school.  Can you imagine what Allison, my youngest is going to put us through? Will we even be as concerned? 

Congrats Madd on finishing up freshman year and thank you being our lead kid and letting us learn from you! 


Michelle Arnold