High school: how to talk to kids

Knowing how to talk to kids starting their first year of high school about 'high school issues' is important in preparing them for the year ahead.

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The start of the first school term for Aussie students is an exciting time of year for parents (all the new possibilities!), but it can also be a time of anxiousness, especially if one of your kids is about to start their first year of high school.

Starting high school getting ready

When you re getting ready for your child to start high school, what often automatically comes to mind is all the errands and administration you need to organise before day one even arrives. Have they got their new uniform? And does it actually fit them? Do you need to make a last minute dash to Clark s to buy them new shoes because the ones that did fit them (with plenty of room) in December now look like they won t even fit their big toe? It s important to remember not to get too caught up in all of this.

Try to set aside time to sit down with your tween and discuss with them some of the hazards/issues/problems that may come up for them in their first year of high school. While errands might be front of mind for you; friends, fitting in, being smart enough and fear are probably all bouncing around in your child s mind.

Starting high school: the issues you need to look out for

Although you may still think of your child as young and innocent, it s important to keep in mind that high school is a different world to primary school. Issues like bullying and making good friends (you know, the ones that won t get your kids in trouble, and have good, involved parents like you) were relevant in primary school, but they really become much more front of mind in high school.

Your child will be exposed to many different experiences and situations that didn t crop up in primary school and ensuring they are surrounded by the right people, who will influence them positively, is a big win! One of the talks you will want to have right before or after the sex talk is about drugs. Rather than burying your head in the sand or stressing unnecessarily, it s time to realise that sometime during their high school lives, your child will be in a situation where they re either offered drugs or are around people who are taking drugs, and your influence could play a big role in the choices they make.

How to talk to kids and help them make good choices

While it is very important to keep the line of communication open with your teenager, you need to make sure that you don t become their best friend. Research has shown that the most effective parenting-style is authoritative parenting. This means that you foster a loving and warm relationship with your child while still setting and enforcing boundaries. Knowing that at high school your child has a good chance of being invited to parties, possibly with alcohol or drugs, means that you need to set boundaries, such as only allowing them to go to parties where you know that there is a responsible parent supervising and also establishing a curfew.

Another tactic to help your child deal with new situations and high school hazards is role playing or brainstorming with them what they would say and how they would react if they are offered drugs. Before starting high school, help them to come up with answers or excuses that they feel comfortable with if they are ever put on the spot.

Most importantly, help them be prepared. Knowing how to talk to kids and working through with them the issues they will face with mates, the opposite sex, teachers, new and challenging school subjects, and of course, experiences that feel like they are social make it or break it occasions such as being offered drugs or a smoke or drink, helps them think about what s coming and how they will respond. While the National Drug Strategy Household Survey reports that the average age of first trying cannabis is 16.3 years, your child may not try it at all, if they really understand how and why to say no.

If you re interested in reading more about how to talk to kids about drugs, download our What s the deal? Talking with a young person about cannabis, or check out our Parents FAQs page.

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