Parents of High School Juniors-It Gets Better


Heavy course loads. A social life. Sports, service and activities. Parent demands, teacher demands, peer demands.  It’s enough to make any teenager stressed out, overwhelmed and more cranky than normal.

And how about you sweet High School Junior parent? You feel it right? I know I did. Actually, I am breaking out just now reminiscing about those stressful days.  Last year as I was preparing my daughter for the college process,  I became easily annoyed with her lack of urgency. While she did what she needed to do, it was with a LOT of prodding from me.

There were plenty of arguments, eye rolls, silent treatments and yelling. I remember looking incredulously at Hubs with a furrowed brow, mouth agape saying “This is why they need to leave home when they’re eighteen. They need to get out before we inflict serious harm on them!”

Staring at me with raised eyebrows and a “Holy shit what do I say to her right now … Is she serious … and how do I agree with her but try to calm her down … and did she just kind of say she was ready for our firstborn to get out of here…” kind of look – Hubs calmly said, “I know Neen, but it’ll get better.”

unknownI didn’t believe him. I wanted to punch him – hard.

Sound familiar? I am here to tell you, my comrades in arms: Hubs was right. It gets better. Junior year sucks in so many ways; for you and most importantly, for your junior sons and daughters.

It’s so, so, SO easy to fall into the story of “Kiddo wants to go to college”. Unfortunately, the college process has become even more challenging than getting Lollapalooza tickets at face value. The story goes like this: She needs to keep her head in the game and meet her deadlines. She needs to keep her grades up. We need to go on college visits. She needs to retake the ACT in February…Does she want big school, small school? What does she want to major in? Does she need a tutor? WE NEED TO FIGURE THIS OUT!

While some of that story is true, guess what? It’s how you manage and react to this story that makes all the difference in the world. Not a big reveal, right parents? I mean, we all know better. But do we do better? I didn’t at first.

I learned a few things on this journey. Here goes:

It is totally normal for your junior to feel overwhelmed and not want to do any and all of what you are suggesting (TELLING) him to do.

Think about it. At school, counselors are sending out announcements about test dates and what they “should” be doing month by month to prepare for the college application process. Shit is getting real for them. What was once “I’m going to college,” is now “Oh my God, I have a ton to do before college.” It’s a lot to take in. No wonder when you innocently ask “So what schools should we visit during President’s Day weekend?” your teenager bursts into a snide “Oh my God, are you kidding me with this?” look and slams out of the room. Understand this. Try to empathize.

It is totally normal for you to feel overwhelmed.

Between blogs and books and parent meetings and discussions, it’s ALL TOO MUCH. And we see our sweet teenager (read BABY) running down the basketball court, going to a movie on a Friday and think “Why can’t they just ‘be’ teenagers? Why do they need to do so much just to apply to a college?”

It wasn’t like this when we were in school mamas and papas. NO, we did it all on our own.

Nowadays (I am old,) it’s our job to hunt and gather information. To know and to be a guide for our teen. Unfortunately, our teen doesn’t always want a guide. They want to watch Netflix, take ugly pictures on SnapChat and FaceTime with friends. We need to create a space for them to just be teenagers, share what they do know and encourage them to set some goals.

For example, goals can begin simply “By this date I will have visited two big schools, a medium school and a small school.” I will prepare for the ACT xx amount of hours. Believe me, this is easier said than done.

It’s challenging at best. Remember you are normal when you nag and when you gently prod. You are normal for being aggravated. This is all new. It gets better.

This can be a really messy time for you and your teenager

By messy I mean arguing. I wish I could sit here and just say “oh it was stressful and now we are all better.” While this is 100% true, I am glazing over the messy middle of this journey. By messy middle, I mean the stress, the fear, the arguments and the time involved for them in studying and preparing. By messy I mean there will be times you will be terrified your kiddo will NEVER finish that damn Common App and be living in your basement for the rest of his life. There will be times when you will need to push away your fear and just hug your kiddo because she is so freaked out that she will be living in your basement for the rest of her life. It’s messy.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe some more.

There is a school out there for EVERYone.

There really is. It seems every high school has a set of ‘top schools’ that get a lot of play. This one is for the smart kids, this one is a ‘heartbeat’ school (meaning anyone with a heartbeat can get in.) Let your kiddo drive the bus on this one. You may need to give some GPS guidance if they are stressing about not getting into their dream school or if they are only looking at the top schools for beer pong.

Our jobs as parents are to act as guides, sometimes veering them off paths that aren’t helpful, sometimes providing more information when they just can’t seem to find it, and sometimes just walking along side them.

So here I sit, sipping some coffee. I have a high school senior. I don’t want to wring her neck anymore (most days.) She finished her apps before school started in August. There were moments I didn’t think it would happen. But it did.

It wasn’t easy and as I talk to all of my junior parent friends I nearly break out in hives. I’ve been there, hives and all. But now I know it gets better. All I want to do most days is hug my kiddo and keep her home forever. While I clearly remember those moments last year when I wanted her out, all I feel now is a sense of pride and love and some dread the she is leaving soon.

Crazy love like when she was a baby. I want to hug her, squeeze her and eat her up. I love her madly and look at her with awe, appreciation and a bit of fear – fear that this wonderful young lady is leaving our nest. I look at her with admiration – admiration that she has a life to jump into.

It has gotten better. So much better.

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