Grade 9 is a big year for most teens. It means more independence, harder academics and the potential for a social life that can steer them astray.
The first weeks of Grade 9 can be very scary and confusing, and teens that are laden with anxiety can often seem grumpy or even brutish to their parents.
These tips can help you wade through the seething hormones and insecurities and help your child through this big transition.
Dealing with the emotions: What to do when anxiety is a real problem?
Sometimes kids get so anxious, they won’t even go to school or they refuse to get out of bed. These actions can lead to many yelling matches in the morning between rushed parents and their teens.
Christie Hayos is a clinical social worker at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto. She offers these coping strategies:
- Establish your role. Before school starts, sit down with your child and ask what role he or she wants you to play. “Every child is different,” says Hayos. “Some kids want their parents close while others do not.” Respect that boundary.
- Don’t engage in a battle. Step back and don’t get too entangled in a fight. Instead, empathize with your child and listen.
- Name the problem. If your child doesn’t want to go to school, sit down with him or her and get to the root of the problem. That doesn't mean your child gets to stay home, but sometimes teens will hold things back and hide behind attitude. If you know the real issue, you can make a plan.
- Work with your child to put a plan in place. Work with your child as a team. “Often kids have really great ideas about how they could get support,” says Hayos. Children like to feel that they are actively a part of, and have some kind of control over, the future. “When they know the plan, when they are part of it, they are likely to feel more successful and to buy into the plan,” says Hayos.
- Chunk the day down. If your child doesn’t want to go to school because the anxiety is too much, explain that as a parent, it is your job to keep your child safe but it is also your job to make sure he or she goes to school. So break the day down into manageable chunks. Get your child to call you after the first period for reassurance, then lunch, then in the afternoon if still needed. But if the anxiety is not getting better, reach out to the school.
- Work with the teacher. The teacher works with your child on a daily basis and probably has experienced similar issues with other children. The teacher will often have very helpful ideas to rectify the situation.
- Get help elsewhere. If none of the above works, contact your family doctor.
What to Expect in the classroom: Problems and Solutions
Kathleen Goslin has been a Grade 9 teacher for six years. She says these are the top problems kids and parents have in Grade 9:
- Organization. Kids and parents struggle with organization once students get to Grade 9. Grade 9 kids have between 4 and 8 teachers during the year. Kids struggle to keep track of assessment schedules, homework, practices, and social obligations. Parents often are left out of the loop as their children begin to try to organize these things on their own.
- Expectation Management. Kids struggle to find a balance between teacher expectations and their own expectations of themselves. This can be difficult as some teens put too much pressure on themselves, while others do not. The first few weeks of class are often spent reconciling these gaps so that everyone is aware of school and classroom expectations.
- Time Management. Often teens - and let's face it, adults too - do the work they enjoy the most, and put off the work they are less interested in completing. This leads to issues in skill development that is critical in math and language classes, as these subjects build skills and concepts continuously through the year.
- Being too busy. Transition years are often difficult because many students try to reinvent themselves and choose new friends, new clubs, new teams or new everything. This can be exhausting for students and some may pull away from their studies. Being too busy adds a lot of stress into a person’s day and being stressed has negative effects on learning.
What can you do to help?
Goslin offers these suggestions:
- Be interested. Always ask your kids what they are doing in school. Goslin says, "I often ask my daughter how her day was and she gives me the typical response fine to good. Then I ask more specific questions about her day and I get a much richer response that often includes some academic and emotional highs and lows of her day."
- Know your stuff. This doesn't mean become a chemist or a mathematician, just know where you can access information. Find out if the teacher runs a website, has a twitter feed, or sends "homework reminders" via text programs. This information is usually on a course outline in the first few days of the semester. This helps you to know when your child has homework, how much there is, and if your child really could have gotten it done in the last ten minutes of class.
- Know who is who. Know who your child’s teachers are and how to contact them. Communication is key in your child’s education and it goes both ways. If you have concerns call and talk to the teacher. A five minute conversation early on can prevent miscommunications from occurring later on in the semester.
- Expect homework. In secondary school students will have homework. This will come in many forms depending on the subject and the teacher's style. Each class will have different amounts of homework and every student completes work at different rates but try to know what it is and how much there is. This will help in managing time between school and home life.
- Help to create a study space. Many students need a space at home to study their notes, review concepts, and sometimes practice or work on extension problems. This space needs to be quiet and free from distractions or interruptions. Some students like to listen to music and others need to hear a pin drop.