As the first day of school approaches, I find myself hearing many of the same questions from teens who are taking the big leap into high school. “What is high school REALLY like? Is it way more stressful? How much more work is there? Am I going to have time to see my friends or am I just going to be doing homework alllllll the time? How much is it going to suck going from being the oldest to the youngest in the entire school?”
If you have had any of these questions or thoughts, you are so not alone. A lot of grade 9’s are carrying many of the same nervous/questioning feelings that you are. Each of you are starting at a new school with new people, and facing a whole bunch of change… and change can be a more than a little bit scary.
Here are some of the things you might be feeling:
- Sad that you may not get to see some of your old friends as much anymore particularly if they are going to a different school.
- Lost… physically and emotionally! Most high schools are bigger than the elementary or middle schools that people transition from, so it can take a bit of time to remember where classes are. Emotionally, you may also be feeling lost and overwhelmed as you try to get your bearings.
- Lonely and confused as you try to navigate finding and making new friends, or even worried that you might not find a group to hang out with.
- Overwhelmed by expectations from parents, teachers, friends, and maybe even from yourself.
- Worried that you might not be able to understand the school work and stay caught up with the rest of the class.
With each of these emotions, comes an array of positives as well. You might be feeling excited at the idea of having a new beginning. You get to be who you want to be, spend your time with who you want to, and have an opportunity to – essentially – create a new identity for yourself. When else in life have you had the opportunity to do that?
What can you do to cope with some of the less-than-fun, strong emotions?
Stay connected with your old friends over social media, or plan to meet up with them at Starbucks or Tim Hortons during the first few weeks of school.
Challenge yourself to talk to a few different people that you don’t know each week. They will probably appreciate the effort, and may have been afraid to talk to you themselves.
Talk to the guidance counsellor or one of the teachers if you are finding it difficult to find your way around, or to manage your new workload. Help will be there if you ask for it!
Think about what you can do to stay organized. Would a nice agenda/planner from Indigo inspire you to write things down? Do you have an older sibling who can offer you some organizational advice?
Allow yourself some time to get settled. Most of you will be going into high school knowing no one, or only a few close friends, but soon you will be surrounded by swarms of people your age. As you have classes or lunch hours together, you’ll see who you want to hang out and have fun with.
Making the transition into high school can bring about a lot of big feelings and new behaviours.
Things you might see in your teens:
- Anger/irritability as they try to navigate such a huge life change. This anger can stem from unmet expectations, external and internal pressures, or change in and of itself.
- Low patience as individuals often empty their proverbial gas tanks at school and don’t have much left to give when they return home.
- Exhaustion – see above^. Your teen might be feeling exhausted from the worry, frustration, sadness, or confusion as a result of facing such a large life change. Your teen will be doing more homework than ever before, facing new peer challenges, and trying to find their place as they navigate this new phase of life. That is some tiring stuff!
- Isolation, particularly in introverted and ambiverted teens who need their space to recharge their batteries after their long days of school and extracurriculars.
- An increase in defiance as teens try to navigate some newfound independence, and assess what their new boundaries and limits might look like at home.
Starting high school can be a tough transition for both teens and their families. It is okay to be nervous. Much like when you were a child learning how to ride a bike, it took some time to stop falling off or wobbling around. High school is very much the same way. Be gentle with yourself – you’ve got this!
Shelynn Gervais MACP (candidate) Youth Counsellor
Worried about how your teen is coping with the pressures of school? I would love to offer you a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation to help you figure out how we can work together to support your teen for a successful school year.