When we were children, it took very little to keep us happy during the summer. Ice cream, swimming and bike riding were enough to keep us entertained. Our parents’ biggest worries were scrapes, bumps and determining how long it had been since we ate so they could either approve or deny pool time. Those were much simpler times for us all.

By the time we were ready to enter high school, no longer could our happiness be kept afloat by simple activities. Life became much more complex, with our happiness being determined by our success with friends and relationships. Our interests grew more focused on becoming or acting like adults, and our parents’ worries grew in number and intensity. They became engulfed in issues they could no longer mend or control.

The summer before high school is like no other because it’s the last chance parents have to prepare their teens for this next, very crucial stage in life. This new chapter is filled with emotions, experiences and exposure to situations that have the ability to change their lives permanently. The only way to ensure your teen’s success and safety is to provide them with the knowledge and guidance needed to make sound decisions during this tumultuous time.

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The Importance of Education
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2016, the unemployment rates for youth without a high school diploma were 24 percent for young men and 20 percent for young women. “In contrast, the jobless rates of young men and women with at least a bachelor’s degree were 8.3 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.” (1)

Having a high school diploma opens the door to attending college and, subsequently, more employment opportunities. Your teen needs to understand the importance of having an education, how their work in high school affects their college eligibility and the effect all of this will have on the rest of their life.

Sex
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 percent of high school students surveyed in 2015 admitted to having engaged in sexual behavior. Also in 2015, “half of the nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases reported each year were among young people, between the ages of 15 to 24” and “nearly 230,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15–19 years.” (2)

By the time they enter high school, it’s likely that your teens have already had a discussion about sex. However, this is a topic that bears reminding. TV, music and the internet have a way of glamorizing sex without fully explaining the dangers associated with engaging in the act. Educating your teens on sex and the risks involved is important to their health and future.

Drugs and Alcohol
“In 2015, the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 10 percent of eighth-graders and 35 percent of twelfth-graders drank during the past 30 days, and 5 percent of eighth-graders and 17 percent of twelfth-graders binge drank during the past two weeks.” (3)

One of the scariest scenarios for a parent is answering a call from the police or hospital about their child. Teens need to know that in addition to endangering themselves, they could potentially harm others while under the influence. For this reason, it is imperative that you discuss the risks associated with underage drinking and drugs before they start high school.

Find Yourself, But Don’t Lose Yourself In The Process
High school brings on many changes in teens, including being influenced by the behavior of their peers. Choosing the wrong crowd or behaviors to mirror makes them susceptible to negative situations and consequences. Having a discussion about integrity, responsibility and self-preservation before they start school can help them to make the right choices.

Have an “Open Door” Policy
The transition from middle to high school can be a confusing and scary one. Our children need to know that they can count on their parents for support and guidance through these difficult years. You need to be able to trust them, but they also need to be able to trust you. Letting them know that they can come to you with concerns or questions is one of the best things you can do for your teens. Not only will it strengthen your relationship, but it can also prevent unnecessary damage from being done.

Even if you think your teen is not listening, planting these seeds can go a long way. We all want to raise responsible and successful adults, but in order to do so, we need to provide them with the knowledge and guidance necessary to make the right decisions.

Resources:
www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm. •. www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/
www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

By Pamela V. Miller