Sit-Down Conversation Prior to High School

Going from junior high to high school introduces a tremendous amount of change and exposure to new levels of challenges and risks.  Because of this, we had a face-to-face conversation with each of our girls sometime during the summer before entering high school.

In the best case, the adolescent will heed some of the advice.  In the worst case, they will ignore the advice, but later find at least some of it to be truthful, which gives more credibility to later advice.

Potential Topics to Discuss

We created a cheat sheet of issues to discuss, including the topics in the following list:

  • Grades
  • Peer pressure
  • Curfew
  • Penalty free ride home (see related blog post)
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Boys and dating
  • Sex
  • Sexual abuse

The items in our list mostly certainly included the things we regarded as the “really important stuff” we worried about for our daughters during their high school years, plus a couple of other things like grades and curfew.

If you aren’t already familiar with the “important stuff” tool, read my article titled “Sticking to the Important Stuff (Teen Years)“.

The Discussion

We found that an advisory tone for the discussion yields much better results than a dictatorial or authoritarian one.  Whether or not kids are actually ready to handle the adult-like situations they’ll be presented with, they probably think they’re ready.  Speaking to them like young adults gives a chance they’ll listen.

Our list of discussion topics probably won’t be the same as yours, and the messages/expectations we associated with each also won’t be the same as yours. We had four objectives for this discussion:

  1. Demonstrate to our adolescent that we, as parents, truly care about their well being.
  2. Show our adolescent that we, as parents, have a pretty good understanding of what our children are about to go through, because we went through much of it ourselves.  The reality is the generation gap these days is quite small compared to what most 40+ year old adults experienced with their parents (my personal opinion).
  3. Prepare our adolescent in at least a small way for the more serious issues they will face at the high school level.
  4. Create open space for our adolescent to ask us questions or tell us what’s going on in regards to issues like these, either during the initial conversation or later as issues are encountered.

We found this discussion to be a good one to reiterate the “worst thing that can happen” lesson/tool, since the topics of conversation mostly involved things that could go really wrong and have major negative implications.

If you aren’t already familiar with the “worst thing to happen” concept, read my article titled “What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?

After the discussion, consider giving your child a copy of your actual cheat sheet to read on their own.  They might be in a slight state of shock or uncomfortableness during the discussion and might have interest in referring to the document later.  Probably not, but as parents we can hope.

You can also hand the document to them again the summer before their sophomore year as a reminder, but probably without needing to go through the whole discussion again.  You’re hoping they will glance at it and realize some of the truths that are present, based on their freshman year experience.

Cheat Sheet Template

I’m happy to email you the cheat sheet we used, some of which is girl-specific.  Just enter your email address immediately below and click Submit to make this request.

See my other blog posts on parenting here.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Gordon Daugherty is a best-selling author, seasoned business executive, entrepreneur, startup advisor and investor. He has made more than 200 investments in early-stage companies and has been involved with raising more than $80 million in growth and venture capital. From his 28-year career in high tech, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200-million acquisition exit under his belt. Now, as co-founder and president of Austin’s Capital Factory and as author of the book “Startup Success”, Gordon spends 100 percent of his time educating, advising, and investing in startups.

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