Dispelling High School Stress with Goal Setting

My daughter graduates grade eight in one week and it has made me think a lot about how I want her to approach grade nine. She will be my 2nd child making the transition to high school and I am going to use a tried and true method for helping her transition well. Whatever your teen's confidence level, going from grade 8 to grade 9 brings high school stress.

Why is goal setting the secret weapon to dealing with transition to high school stress? It helps build self-esteem and confidence and gives them a focus to dealing with fears they may or may not be aware of. Once you are armed with a plan, fears seem so much more manageable. 

The key is to broach goal-setting right nowright after grade eight graduation. Why?It is at the end of the year, so how that school year went socially is fresh in their mindsThey have just received the results of their grades (Academic)They are about to take a break when they will have time to invest in their goals (Athletic + Social)
How to Choose and Set Goals
There can be a lot of different goals that your teen is interested in achieving, and they may not necessarily be academic. As parents we tend to think about grades primarily, and some kids do, but the majority of high school stress is social. The whole point is to find out what is important to them, and then set them up for success. You want to make sure the goal is challenging, but achievable. Don’t settle on something un-realistic, but also make sure it will be a reach for them. 
Types of Goals to Consider
Chances are grade nine goals are not on your kids' radar. Start them thinking about different areas to spark ideas:
Academic. This one is obvious. Is there a particular average they want? Do they want to be on the honour roll? Is there an award they want to win? 
Athletics. Is your kid big into sports? Do they want to make a certain team? Do they want to be captain?
Social. What relationships do they want to strengthen or maintain through the transition to high school? Are they happy with their current group of friends? Do they want to make new friends? 
Getting Their Buy-In
Start having conversations with your teen to probe for what they want to see from their first year of high school. They may be excited and confident. They may be anxious. Some questions you can ask are:Are you happy with how grade eight went? What would you wish had been different?What do you want to see happen in Grade 9? Is there anything you are afraid of happening?Once you decide on a goal, would you want to give them a reward? (Kids like this part… hahaha.) Why I am not opposed to rewards is because of the value the habit of goal-setting will bring in the future. It's worth it to me when it is a skill that will help them in the future.  Make sure it is something reasonable that you can deliver on AND that you’re kid can live without if they don’t achieve their goal.pro tip: It might be best to lead with the reward when approaching the subject to snag their interest. 
Choosing Your Moment
I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t always open to talking. They don’t respond particularly well to being grilled, either, so asking these questions at opportune times will yield better results. What do they respond well to? Taking them out for ice cream, giving a small graduation gift, or taking care of something they would normally have to do can help make them receptive.

Avoid approaching the subject when they are distracted or focused on something else. I find that the best time for me to approach subjects like this are when I am driving my kids somewhere. It's a less intimidating environment. We aren't sitting face to face, and they are stuck…haha.. they aren't going anywhere. It's easy for me to get info from them without it feeling like an interrogation. 
Supporting Them
Have your teen tell a trusted adult what their goal is and check in with them to see how they are doing. (Academic goals) With one of my girls, midway through the year she felt she was behind on her goal and wanted to give up. We set up a meeting with her teacher (who she had told at the beginning of the year) and asked how things were going. He said she was still in the running for achieving the award she wanted to get. This was a shock for her, but it kept her motivated and renewed her desire to go for it. Having another adult in on it bumps up the accountability and will help with motivation. This is super important with long-term goals.Social goals can be dicey because achieving them depends on others as well, BUT, there is lots you can do to stack the odds. When Sarina was in grade four I wanted her to have a close friend. I helped her pick the girl she wanted to be friends with. She said “I think I like her,” but she was too shy to say anything. For the first couple of months I would ask periodically if we should invite the girl over. At first the answer was “No!” It was too embarrassing. Then we had a Halloween party and invited the girl to it. The relationship progressed from there. Now, they are still very good friends (they are in grade 10 now). What kids are interested in changes with age, but the approach is the same. Checking in with your teen to remind them of their goal and creating opportunities to further the relationship is the key to supporting them. 
By having these conversations now, you are not only preparing your teens to deal with high school stress, but for success in life. You are teaching them to be intentional about the little things. Later on when they want to achieve bigger things like a promotion, or getting into a particular school, or landing a certain job, they will already have experience in mapping out their road to success.

Are you looking for some more help on goal setting? Whether for yourself or for your kids, make sure to tune in next week for:

The Ultimate Goal Setting Guide: 
Part 1 True Goal Setting