By Anna Seip
The teen years are tough enough without having to change schools. But, sometimes a move can't be avoided. Most parents receive plenty of advice when it comes to helping a teen prepare for the first day at a new school. Fill out the necessary forms. Attend orientation. Tour the school. But, what happens after that first day? How can a parent make sure that a teen fits in and doesn't carry that "new kid" label around for longer than necessary? It's not all up to the teen. Here's what parents can do to help:
1. Participate. Busy parents have endless demands on their time with work, church commitments and family events. But, there are lots of other ways to "make an appearance" at your teen's school. It can be as simple as scheduling a parent-teacher conference. Or, chatting with other moms at school sporting events. Once the teachers and the other parents notice your presence, they'll also notice your teen. Once they notice your teen, he stops being "the new kid."
2. Talk to your teen. Don't just ask, "How was your day?" Ask questions that will give you some insight into how your teen is acclimating. Open-ended inquiries such as "Who did you sit with at lunch?" or "Which teacher do you like best?" will help you understand what's going on in his world. Continue asking a variety of questions throughout the school year to gauge your his comfort level.
3. Find some interests outside of school. Maybe your teen is having a tough time fitting in. Make sure he has some interests outside of school. Let him join the youth group at church, so he'll meet children from other schools districts. Set aside time at for family dinner, discussions and activities, so that he can count on your home being a haven after a tough day at school.
4. Don't waffle. Let your teen know this move is permanent. That way, she'll make more of an effort to put her best foot forward when it comes to making friends and settling in. If you're constantly talking about your old house and the friends that your family had to leave behind, you're short-changing your children and hindering their progress. It's OK to have a grieving period about the move, but then "move on." Your attitude about the change and the example you set will be key in how much of an effort your teen makes during this new start.
What Teens Can Do
Just because you're the "new kid" at your high school, there's no reason to compromise your beliefs. All teens can benefit from following this common-sense advice:
A Guide for Teen Girls
1. Date people who respect you. One out of every five high school girls reports being abused by a dating partner. Move on if your new boyfriend acts overly jealous or possessive.
2. Alcohol impairs your ability to make smart decisions and can put you in dangerous situations. You know the dangers, so don't do it.
3. Eating healthy is key to your well-being. If you think you may have an eating disorder, tell a trusted friend, school counselor, parent or teacher and get the help you need.
4. Many teen girls experience sexual harassment. Confront your harasser and then report him to the principal, teacher or guidance counselor.
5. Study hard, so you can get into a good college. It's the one time in your life when you have the least amount of responsibility and the most amount of freedom.
Fitting In: a Guide for Guys
1. Stop bullying before it starts. If a fellow student is giving you hard time, take your concerns to a teacher or the principal to stop any problems before they start.
2. Know a guy who disrespects female students or tells inappropriate jokes? You don't have to participate. You don't have to take a stand and stop it. Just walk away.
3. Flirting among teens is healthy. But, know the line between respectful behavior and unwanted attention. It's not flirting if the recipient feels demeaned or threatened.
4. Before you post pictures from that party on your blog, think about it. Would you tape them up on the walls of the high school cafeteria. Whatever you post can be seen by everyone on the Internet, forever.
5. See #5 on the girls' list.
Anna Seip is an editor and the mother of a teenage boy.