What to Expect When Your Baby Starts High School

The world shifts a bit when your baby goes off to high school.

Yes, you might still pack the same lunchbox with the same peanut butter sandwich they brought to middle school last year or even elementary school before that. But now they can take that sandwich off campus to eat with friends you’ve never met and, afterward, must hustle to their locker and have their butt in the classroom when the bell rings — without anyone supervising or shepherding them along.

teen boy smiling
Your teen starting high school brings new worries. (Twenty20)

Though they probably shoulder the same backpack they’ve been carrying for years, the weight is different. Heavier. And not just from the laptop and binders. Or even the $100 calculator their math class now requires.

Starting high school is rife with expectations and differences

It’s heavier with expectation. And anticipation. And pressure. With class rank, GPA, dual-credit, and PSAT sign-ups.

When your baby is in high school, you might learn their teachers’ names, but you won’t know what they look like. You might see their grades in the parent portal. But you won’t know the classroom expectations, homework assignments, or details of that big group project or upcoming presentation.

When your baby is in high school, their classmates will suddenly be driving, working, and shouldering grown-up responsibilities. And, before you know it, your child will be, too.

Many of their peers and “kids” in the hallways are bona fide adults (on paper, at least). It reminds you that the consequences of immaturity, missteps, and poor decisions are much bigger and scarier.

And you’ll try to swallow your worry. You’ll try to balance your words of caution against natural consequences that allow them to make their own mistakes and find their way. And sometimes you’ll succeed. And sometimes you’ll nag and remind and overstep. And then vow to do better next time.

Your teen starting high school brings new worries but new pride as well

While the worry threatens to consume you, your bursting pride brings an unexpected joy as you glimpse a grown-up in the making when they step out onto the field for the first time in their high school jersey. When they play you that gorgeous ballad they’re learning in band. When they bring up thoughtful observations on current events they discuss in school, when they land a job in the community or volunteer for a service project, when they help their sibling with an algebra problem, when they gift you a treasure they made in shop class.

You’ll beam with pride when your baby is in high school — but you’ll also miss them with an ache different from when they went to kindergarten. It’s an ache you know you’ll have to learn to live with. It’s an ache that no tracking app or text check-ins or parent portal will ever quite quell. It may only subside when they’re home for the night, asleep in their bed, safe and sound under your watch…for now.

When your baby is in high school, of course, you’ll know they’re not really a baby. Haven’t been for a long time. But no matter where these high school adventures bring them or what ups and downs await these next four years and beyond — well, you also know they’ll always be your baby.

More Great Reading:

Middle School is Becoming the New High School and It’s Ridiculous

About Jacqueline Miller

When not worrying about her teenagers, Jacqueline Miller is writing about them. Her recent work appears in Parenting Insider and on her websiteFacebook and Instagram pages.

Read more posts by Jacqueline

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