The Best Gift You Can Give Your Rising 9th Grader

It seems like everyday I meet a new parent who is exploring his/her school options and wants a little guidance along the way. Some are anxious, panicked by all of the playground chatter. Others just want to get a head start so they won’t be so stressed when it’s actually their turn. Most of the time, these are parents to toddlers or wee ones who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall. While I love working with entering elementary parents, I can’t help but wonder:

Where are my entering high school parents?

I can’t think of a more meaningful opportunity to coach your child through the decision-making process than in that of choosing a high school.  By 8th grade, our kids have begun to shed their “child” skin and have had enough life experiences (no, seriously) to be reflective. With a little coaching, they can figure out who they are, what they are and aren’t good at, what kind of people they want to be, and at the very least which subjects and teaching styles capture their interest. Having them reflect on their developmentally intense middle school years to identify what they think they need from a high school is a magnificent exercise in being self-aware and using that knowledge to drive one’s decision-making. 

For many, this is the first opportunity kids have to make a semi-high stakes decision. In the same way that we walk beside and hold the back of our kids’ bikes when they are learning to ride, so too should we stand beside them as they learn how to make important decisions. Engaging 8th graders in the school selection process is the training wheel version of what they will have to do with the higher stakes decision of choosing a college.

One of the most important things we can teach our children is to be self-aware and self-advocating, and they can’t become those two things without our teaching them how to assess where they are (their strengths and areas for development), decide where they want to be, articulate what they think it will take to get there, and ultimately act on their findings. Not only are these the most essential steps in finding a school, they also happen to be critical to setting personal goals and making strategic decisions–a skill set that will last them a life time.   

For other skills worth teaching your rising 9th grader, download our Laying the Foundations: 6 Essential Skills for Success.