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Dear Son Starting High School - My Letter to You

By Susan Whelan - 1st February 2012

My older son starts high school this year, transferring to a school where he will know no others students on his first day. Despite the many changes at hand, he is more excited than nervous about his new adventure. His confidence and excitement mean that I'm not particularly nervous about embarking into the new stage of my life, that of a High School Parent.

I have been giving some thought to what advice I would give my son if he asked me. Not that he is likely to, of course, given that he is now All-Grown-Up-and-Not-A-Child-Anymore, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, just in case.

Dear Son,

You are more than the marks you achieve in tests and assessments
You are an intelligent boy with a compulsive need to learn, but you are so much more than the marks on your test papers, which only measure one aspect of who you are. You have gifts and abilities that will never translate into a grade or assignment mark, yet they are a very real indication of the man you will become one day. Your test results show what you can do, but your character is who you are.

You are not alone.
Teenage years, and high school in particular, can sometimes leave you feeling isolated and disconnected, but even if you feel alone, you aren’t. You are surrounded by friends and family that love you. We’re a bit dorky at times and not always as funny as we think we are. We miss the point, misunderstand and make mistakes, but we will always have you your back and be willing to hold your hand, both literally and figuratively. Always.

And when you look at others who seem so happy and connected and carefree, remember that some of them are looking at you, wondering how you can be so happy, connected and carefree when they are feeling isolated and discouraged. I was astounded to discover at a high school reunion that many of the ‘popular’ kids struggled with the same feelings of being an outsider and not fitting in as I did at school. Your friends and classmates are working through the same issues you are, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside.

We understand.
I know that we seem hopelessly old and outdated. We don’t know about the ‘cool’ music, fashion or words (see, I still think it’s okay to call things ‘cool’). Believe it or not, we were young once and we do remember what it was like. Our parents’ rules frustrated us; we felt both annoyed at the childish limitations they imposed and nervous about our new freedoms. We worried about physical changes, struggled with new emotions and rode the same hormone rollercoaster that you will.

We remember and we understand.

Cherish good friends.
You’ll make lots of new friends at high school. Some will be friends for a few weeks or a term, some for a year, others for longer. People will let you down sometimes, you’ll misjudge some people and you’ll be disappointed by others, but at the end of the day, the true friends will remain and the trials you’ve gone through with others will be worth the treasure you discover in those few who remain. I’m still friends with someone I met on my first day of Year 7. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

You get to choose.
You can’t opt out of writing essays and assignments in subjects that don’t interest you (sorry about that), but when it comes to what you say, wear, eat and do, who you hang around with and who you allow to influence your actions and your thoughts, you get to choose. Don’t let anyone make you feel that you are powerless. You aren’t.

Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground

The next six years will be amazing. Embrace the opportunities that come your way. Try new things, meet new people, think new thoughts.

Know that you can achieve amazing things. While you reach for the stars, we’ll be here cheering you on, keeping you connected for those times when you need to temporarily backtrack so that you can follow a different path.

Summary for a busy pre-teen
We love you, we believe in you and we’re proud of you. Work hard, have fun, enjoy the moment. Cherish the good times, learn from the tough times and please don’t leave your dirty school socks underneath your bed. (Sorry, thought I’d sneak that last one. Can’t blame me for trying.)

Love Mum

P.S. Everyone changes at a different pace

It’s really hard to not compare yourself physically with the other kids, but no-one can control when the growth hormones will kick in. Trust me, when you are 40, no-one will care who started shaving first.

image S. Vuono

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