Ninth Grade: Advice to Parents

The first year of high school. It's a defining moment for teens but oh-so-hard to define in terms of individual experience.The heady adventures and awakenings that constitute the beginning of high school affect different students in different ways. Nevertheless, a few recurrent themes characterize these new kids on the block.
  • Friends and social activities rule. Cliques and peer groups take the place of family, and more often than not parents find themselves scorned and rejected. This is entirely normal and -- if you're lucky -- passes sooner rather than later.

  • Individuality gives way to conformity: "Everybody's doing it" becomes a mantra. Many parents watch helplessly as ninth graders spurn anything that might set them apart from the pack. What appears to be social bondage, however, is actually more like a social refuge where kids build confidence and self esteem.

  • Confrontation is inevitable, encompassing everything from the ridiculous to the relevant. At this stage, kids are learning to think in abstractions and are often desperate to test out their advanced thinking in the form of endless debate. "I hope she grows up to be a lawyer," remarks one father. "Then she can be paid to argue!"

  • Along with all the bravado, ninth graders are also likely to be insecure, moody, and painfully self-absorbed. As one psychologist says, "Imagine trying to work or give a small, intimate dinner party in a department store window and you'll know how self-conscious your young adolescent feels much of the time."

  • Entering high school brings drama to the smallest events. The rumor mill is in high gear, mundane occurrences assume huge proportions, and the repercussions are endless. It's an ongoing spectacle of tragedy and comedy. Who needs to spend money on theater tickets?

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