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Moving from middle school to high school is a big transition, even for the parents of 9th graders. New schools, new friends and new classes can be overwhelming. As you and your incoming freshman navigate an array of decisions, use this checklist as a guide to help you stay on the right track.

✓ Encourage new friendships

One of the most important parts of freshman year is finding a group with common interests. Talk with your 9th grader about their interests and help them seek out opportunities to get involved. Joining a sports team, arts club or leadership organization is a great way to make new friends, including upperclassmen. Your freshman may also find great friends outside of school through volunteer organizations, religious groups or part-time jobs. Encourage your student to be bold, try new things and be the first to say hello. Creating lasting friendships significantly improves the high school experience.

✓ Talk about future goals

Graduation may seem far away, but conversations about the future should start before freshman year of high school. While they may not yet know what career pathway they want to pursue, it is good to look ahead. If your student aims to attend college, talk with your student and their guidance counselor about standardized tests and college tours. If your student wants to go straight into the workforce after graduation, motivate them to learn more about training programs and work study options. Colleges and certificate programs often require students’ high school transcript to be submitted with their applications. Even though they are only starting 9th grade, it is important to remind your child that their grades and conduct during this year will matter down the road.

✓ Sign up for the right classes

High school may be the first time your student gets to choose their own classes. It can be tempting for your 9th grader to sign up for the classes their friends are in, but you should guide them to enroll in the best suited classes for the goals you discussed. Most high schools have multiple pathways to graduation. Some students may choose to take honors classes in the subjects they excel in, while others feel more comfortable in standard courses. Preparation or participation in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment courses begin in 9th grade. Alternatively, your student’s interests and academic ambitions might align better with a Career and Technical Education pathway. If your freshman is interested in a particular industry or CTE pathway, look into career and professional academies available across Northeast Florida. Additionally, encourage your freshman to enroll in elective courses that allow them to pursue their passions or learn new skills.

✓ Set up healthy boundaries

As your freshman builds community and pursues hobbies, they will develop interests that may distract from success. Take time to establish boundaries that work well for your family. This may look like enforcing a curfew or designating technology-free time. Other boundaries may depend on the student. Some freshmen will naturally balance their full plate of responsibilities, while others may need to be reminded of homework deadlines and household chores. Remember, boundaries are intended to create an environment where your 9th grader can succeed. Being too controlling or not providing enough guidance can result in more harm than good.

✓ Teach them independence

Your child is growing up, and while they aren’t an adult yet, it is important to give them opportunities to spread their wings. Independence does not mean that your freshman should be free to do whatever they want, but teaching them to be responsible at school, work and extracurriculars is a great way to prepare them for the future. For example, encourage your freshman to get to know their teachers and seek them out for help. If your freshman misses a homework assignment, suggest they talk with the teacher about extra credit. Even if no makeup assignment is offered, your child will grow from accepting accountability for their mistake. While you should be involved in your child’s academic journey, it is ultimately up to the student to take care of their performance in class. Giving your child freedom helps them gain confidence and allows them to earn your trust.

✓ Allow them to change

You will notice a quick change in your child during the first year of high school. Socially, your student will be exposed to new people, new ideas and new possibilities. As they figure out where they belong, they might change the way they dress or talk. Physically, your student is maturing, and they need rest and nourishment to be healthy. It is a time of growth and development that shapes them into who they will become. As the parent of a 9th grader, the best thing you can do is provide guidance, be understanding and make them feel accepted at home.