There are so many changes between the end of 5th grade and the beginning of 9th for both children and parents! Suddenly your baby is a young adult and its easy to feel like it’s all just zipping by. Here are few conversations that you want to have before the inevitable changes of high school set in.
1. How to ask for help.
Whether they are behind in algebra, having a fight with their boyfriend, or struggling with depression, far too many adolescents do not know how to ask for help. Too often they wait till things are out of control or are already facing negative consequences before seeking out support or guidance. Talk with your kid about the many different areas that they may face stress and all resources that they can tap into for help. This is particularly true for the kids who typically do well and therefore have little practice seeking out support.
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While the rate of teen sex has decreased in recent years to just under half of all high school students, it’s still worth noting that by senior year over 60% of high school students are sexually active. More importantly, their attitudes about safe sex and premarital sex are shaped often years before their first time. Middle school is the time to share not only the important facts of STDs and pregnancy but also your family’s values about pre-marital sex and promiscuity. Don’t assume that your children know what your expectations are unless you’ve had a frank discussion and made them concrete.
This might seem like it goes hand in hand with sex but the truth is that while only 8% of kids under age 14 have had sex, more than 70% report dating. And more importantly, by freshmen year more than half of those will report experiencing some form of dating violence. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse is major issue in teen relationships that is not being talked about. This is a great time to share your views on what makes a healthy relationship and how to ask for help if you are in an unhealthy relationship. You can read more about the importance of talking to kids about intimacy here.
4. Drugs and Alcohol.
Alcohol (and for some parents, marijuana) are such a big part of the adult social life that it is easy to minimize their role in our teenager’s life. But the impact of one drunken night on adolescent psychological and physical development can be extraordinary. Not to mention the potentially life altering choices that can happen as a result. From drunk driving to date rape, the role of drugs and alcohol in our teenagers’ lives can’t be ignored.
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Yes they’ve seen the movie in health class and maybe you bought them a book but there are many complex and unexpected aspects of puberty that its worth mentioning again and again. For instances did you know that boys can experience breast and nipple swelling and pain as part of normal puberty? Or that girls can have wet dreams? Both girls and boys are likely to experience irritability, fatigue, moodiness, and other seemingly unexplained issues as a result of puberty. Talking openly about these things not only improves communication but can eliminate unnecessary self-consciousness and feelings of shame.
6. Your own adolescence.
There are so many rules and guidelines to give your kids at this point in their lives that it’s easy to become disconnected. They see you as an old fart that doesn’t remember or never enjoyed their own youth. Sharing your own stories of funny and awkward and outright humiliating experiences makes you a little more relatable. And lets face it, they’re going to see that horrible yearbook picture eventually, might as well show it to them so you can explain just how cool those bangs really were.