Take your teens back to kindergarten to see if they are ready for high school

Summer is just starting, but already you may be thinking about how your teenager is going off to high school in September. This is completely understandable as high school is a huge step in their lives! However, there are ways to prepare your teenager for high school that should make the transition a bit easier.  

This may seem counterintuitive, but before your teen heads to ninth grade, take them all the way back to kindergarten, another exciting moment in their lives and their first real entrance into academia. In kindergarten, your child started with the basic building blocks to lay down a solid foundation for all their subsequent levels of education. By taking them back to kindergarten, you remind them that they can rely on basic skills, that they have to take it upon themselves to learn for the sake of learning, and that they need to take charge of their own activities.

Some of the basic skills that children learn in kindergarten are essential for all active members of society. They include good manners, communication, expression, and collaboration. As basic as these are, consider the importance of communicating clearly and working with team members as an adult.  Your teen probably understands the importance of these skills, but many times they can still forget these or choose to ignore them once they enter adolescence.  

The best way to do this is to have them model off your own behavior. Your relationship will be best cultivated through reciprocation, meaning if you treat your children with respect, they will return that respect. Portray good manners when dealing with teens by saying “please” and “thank you.” Likewise, if you communicate openly and express yourself, teenagers will feel safe doing the same, so you are not left in the dark. Lastly, remind teens that it is important to be helpful members of the community by sharing and working with others as part of a team.  

The second thing kindergarten focuses on is learning to learn. Children entering kindergarten are not in an advanced stage of education but the very, very beginning. They are learning what it is like to learn, and so the emphasis is placed on the process. They use their senses to figure things out on their own with some outside guidance; this gives them a feeling of control.  

High school will be a stressful time with increasingly difficult levels of education. All those honors and AP classes and the reward systems like Honor Rolls and valedictorian title can feel overwhelming. Teenagers become driven by those extrinsic factors, such as good grades and GPAs. Outside academics, extrinsic factors include popularity, sports victories, party invitations, and social media likes. The focus drastically shifts to the results.  

Strip back the fancy titles and reward system in order to strip away the stress on your teens. Remind them that it is all about how they learn rather than what they accomplish. It is good to have ambition and goals, but colleges only use those results to gauge whether youths have established good self-discipline and worked on self-improvement. They use those results to check on the process–does this child have what it takes to grow and handle stress that the real world will throw at them?  

Enjoy the lessons and the classes. Accomplishments will naturally follow. It is the same with relationships; it is better to nurture healthy ones and get to know people rather than count how many friends and followers they have. In particular, it is imperative that teenagers realize the importance of building a network of supporters through connections and mentors.

This leads to the last point: teenagers will have to take charge of their activities. They will have to be proactive in order to become truly independent adults going into college. Although they have more freedom and mobility (hello, drivers licenses!) than kindergarteners, the latter can teach teens a thing or two about taking charge with a hands-on approach. Kindergarteners are innately curious because they are at an early developmental stage where they are trying to understand the world around them; and therefore, they are constantly touching, experimenting, and asking questions (even if it is just “Why?” over and over again).  

Teenagers need to do the same and start taking charge of the future. This is truly where JEI’s Self-Learning Method® comes into play. They need to develop a growth mindset, head out, and test out different things, such as clubs and activities at school. Just like how kindergarteners dig their hands without restraint into the mud and try out a funny-looking slide, teenagers need to get their hands dirty and blindly go down new adventures by trying out different activities, actively finding what they like and do not like, meeting new people, and keeping an open mind.  

High school will introduce a completely new realm of possibilities, such as varsity athletics teams, volunteer programs, retreats, external academic programs that require applications, clubs ranging from theater to car mechanics, and part-time jobs. It is an exciting time for teens to dig in and see what sticks, and learn from all the experiences rather than shying away or passively letting life happen to them. Then, they would have a better idea of what to get out of college and what to pursue after graduating!

Let your teenager go back to their kindergartener roots. High school and kindergarten are similar in that they introduce your child to completely new environments that give plenty of opportunities for learning and growth. Do not fear the change because you have gone through a similar change before when you dropped them off at kindergarten–rather be as supportive and helpful as possible while giving them room to do their thing!

If you want to prepare your children in advance for high school, find a JEI center near you so they can absorb the Self-Learning Method® as much as possible before!