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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 1 - January/February 2013

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Preparing for High School

By Michelle Mitchell

Transitioning to high school is a major milestone for primary school students. Watching a 12 year old wear a high school uniform, juggle multiple teachers, learn new subjects and carry an iPad can be an exciting experience that captures the whole family's attention.

But today's high school student also experiences a huge amount of in-your-face temptation. When teenagers walk through the school gates they are met by the pressures of being cool. Skipping school, experimenting sexually, drinking alcohol, sexting and accessing explicit sites in cyberspace are just some of the pressures they may face. These temptations can be especially prominent in the early years of high school.

That is why I believe it is critical for parents to prepare their children for the real pressures of high school before it arrives. Below are 5 things that should be on every family's "conversation list" this summer holidays.

  1. School Attendance & Study:

    Engagement in school is the best defence against drugs and crime. That's one big reason why it shouldn't come in second place to socialising, social media or gaming. A big organisational calendar to collate each term's assignments and exams makes a good start. A spacious desk and a set routine for homework also help. Regular sleeping and eating habits are critical during this stage of life.

    A Snap Shot of Reality - 50,000 Australian teenagers fail to complete their high school education each year.

  2. Social Media:

    High school students use social media entirely differently than primary school students. Young people need to be prepared to hear and see things on social media that they may have not come across before. Swear words, or the abbreviated versions (wtf), sexting and pornography are more common in high school than in primary school. It is almost impossible to shelter young people from trash on social media, even with the strongest privacy settings set and safety software.

    A Snap Shot of Reality - Mainly due to the introduction of smart phones and iPads, 75% of young people have seen pornography by the time they are 12 and 100% by the time they are 16.

  3. Sexuality:

    Having a boyfriend or a girlfriend may be something that looks appealing to high school students. I always encourage young people to think carefully before they say "yes" to a relationship, remembering that high school relationships often come with pressure to experiment sexually. If you don't want the pressure, you may think twice about the relationship.

    A Snap Shot of Reality - 30% of teenagers say they have had unwanted sex because of either peer pressure or being too drunk or high to say no. Approximately 25% of year 10 students have had sexual intercourse in year 10 and 50% of students in year 12. 78% of young people say they are sexually active in some way.

  4. Friendships:

    High school usually comes with the challenge of making new friends or expanding your group of friends. If there is ever a time to choose your friends carefully it is in high school. Good friends are people who know how to respect themselves and respect others. The best defence against bullying is to choose your friends carefully. Young people who have at least four respectful friends have less chance of getting bullied.

    A Snap Shot of Reality - Between 40 - 60% of teenagers experience bullying at some stage in high school.

  5. Support:

    Confident teenagers have hidden support. Their parents hide in the wings at home! Teenagers don't tell their friends that they go home each night and talk to an adult about their day, but they do. The young people that cope best have an adult in their life that they trust. Parents can make it easy for teenagers to talk to them by learning to listen more than they speak, validating their teenager's emotion and not overreacting when they hear something they don't like!

    A Snap Shot of Reality - 40% of teenagers still talk to their parents about the challenges they are facing and would talk to their parent if they were in trouble.

About Michelle Mitchell

Michelle delivers small group programs, presentations and mentoring to hundreds of teenagers each year through her charity Youth Excel. She regularly appears in the media as a Teenage Expert and speaks on Cyber Safety, Sexual Health, Bullying and Parenting Teens. To book Michelle at your school or community organisation please visit her website.

More Information

Michelle Mitchell
Founder of Youth Excel
Author of 'What Teenage Girls Don't Tell their Parents'


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