To My Youngest As You Start High School: 9 Things We Want You to Know

Dear Son,

It’s hard for Daddy and me to believe that our baby boy is going to start high school in the fall. I know you’re excited. You’ve watched all your older siblings enjoy their high school years, and you’re looking forward to many of the same experiences–proms, homecomings, pep rallies, hanging out with friends, and more. Your dad and I are looking forward to all of that too. We know from experience that parenting high school kids can be a whole lot of fun.

On the other hand, we also know that these years won’t always be easy–for you or for us. And just in case you are counting on the old adage that the youngest gets away with more because his parents are just too tired to care, let me set you straight.

Daddy and I are not now, nor will we ever, EVER,  be too tired to care about what you’re up to. The good news is that our many years of parenting teenagers have taught us a thing or two. One of those things is that it’s better for everyone if our expectations are clear from the get go. So, before you walk through those doors on your first day of high school, listen up. Here’s what you need to know about the next four years….

teens jumping into a lake
As my youngest starts high school, I want him to know his Dad and I will never be too tired to enjoy these years. (@loganisaiah211 via Twenty20)

 Teen Starts High School

1. We trust you–we just don’t trust your teenage brain.
Inevitably there will be times over the next four years when you will want to do things that Daddy and I don’t think are a good idea. We will say no, and you will argue that we just don’t trust you. This argument has been going on between parents and teens since the dawn of time, and in some homes it goes on for hours. In ours it will not.

We know you are smart and capable, honest and good. You are clever and resourceful, thoughtful and responsible. Daddy and I are very proud of the young man you becoming. But you’re not a man yet, Bud, and your man-boy brain isn’t fully capable of making rational decisions.   So for now, you’ll just have to trust us to make some decisions for you.

2. We will check up on you.
Again, it isn’t that we don’t trust you, but like a lot of seasoned parents, we live by the motto, “Trust. But verify.”

3. You are not entitled.
Our love, care, and affection are yours unconditionally and without limit. Pretty much everything else is subject to conditions. Want a phone? Respect the limitations we set on using it. Need a car? Drive safely and be home on time. Want to go out with your friends this weekend? Make your grades. Watch your attitude. Do your chores. Don’t worry. Our expectations will always be clear and reasonable. Even without a fully formed prefrontal cortex, we are confident in your ability to meet them.

4. It doesn’t matter who’s right. It matters who’s in charge.
As you go through high school, you will have teachers who aren’t fair, bosses who aren’t nice, and rules you think are stupid. Guess what? That’s life. Of course, I’m not talking about moral or ethical issues. We will never expect you to go along with someone or something that violates the truth.

But not liking the way a teacher conducts her class or thinking your boss is a jerk, doesn’t give you license to be disrespectful or insubordinate. Part of being a mature person is your ability to work for and with people you don’t like.

5. The moody teenager stereotype just won’t fly.
Just as working with people you don’t like is a part of growing up, so is being pleasant when you don’t feel like it. Of course, we all have our bad days, and I hope Daddy and I are the first people you come to when you are stressed or struggling or you just need to vent.

That said, there’s a big difference between communicative and openly grumpy. If you want to talk, we will talk. If you want to be left alone, we can do that too. But we will always expect you to treat the rest of the family with kindness and respect–regardless of your mood.

6. Self-care matters.
Teenagers are notorious for their bad habits of eating junk food and staying up late. I expect some of that. But I cannot stress this enough. Food is life. Sleep is restorative. If you want to feel good, if you want to do well in school and in sports, if you want to keep your mood in check and your prefrontal cortex developing, eat well and take your sleep seriously. Now is not the time to deprive your body of two things it needs the most.

7. Call us no matter what!
No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve been doing, if you need us, we will come and get you. Our expectations are high. Our need to keep you safe is higher. Never, ever be afraid to call us to get you out of a dangerous or difficult situation.

8. Our love is bigger than your problems or your mistakes.
Tell us if you feel angry, anxious, or depressed. Share your goals and accomplishments with us. Let us know when you’re feeling overwhelmed or over the moon. We respect your privacy and your need to work through some things alone, but if you need to talk, if you want advice, or if all you want is a quiet sounding board, we are here and we are more than able to handle anything you want or need to lay on us.

9. We only want what’s best for you.
I know. I know. That sounds like a cliche–something all parents say when they are ruining your plans or crushing your dreams. So let me put it another way. Your happiness, your ultimate happiness, is the reason for every single decision we make–every yes, every no, every limitation, expectation and rule–all of it is because we love you more than you can begin to imagine, and we want nothing but good things for you. You might not always like our rules. You might not even always like us. But you can always, always believe that your highest good is our highest priority.

So, you got all that? Great! Now here’s to four years of cooperation, communication, respect—oh yeah, and fun!

Love,

Mom

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About Laura Hanby Hudgens

Laura Hanby Hudgens is a part-time high school teacher and a freelance writer living with her husband and children in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Parent.co and elsewhere. You can learn more about her at Charming Farming, where she occasionally blogs about faith, food, education, and family life.

More by Laura Catherine Hanby Hudgens:
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