6 Tips to Make the High School Years the Best Yet

Two high school boys in school uniforms and two girls in cheerleading uniforms

When I was about to head into high school my mother came home with a hot pink lunch bag, the kind that looked like a sack lunch, but wasn’t. I proceeded to tell her in probably my most teenage brattiness, that there was no way I was taking that to school. I am pretty sure I hurt her feelings. Years later we laugh about it. When she was growing up everyone had one of those lunch sacks and she never did because her family was poor and they had to take brown sack lunches. To her that brown lunch bag was mortifying and so, to watch her daughter WANT to take a sack instead of the cool, nifty sack mom could finally afford was appalling!

Isn’t that the way of motherhood?!? We have expectation of what it is supposed to be and look like and what we want for our kids and then it turns out nothing like we expected. And then…high school! 

Yikes! How did we get here? But mamas of kids entering high school…You are doing good! You have done all the things. You survived that first day of kindergarten, all the pick ups and drop offs, the insecure middle school years and so yes, high school seems daunting, but you can do this too and they may be the most fun years yet!

6 Tips to Make the High School Years the Best Yet!

Set Communication Expectations

Sometimes teenagers are not great communicators. I know, shocker. So you have to set the expectation for communication early. You have to stay involved even if they push you away, so, if you set that expectation early on it will be much better. Now, girls are better at this in general, but this is what worked for my son and I. The expectation was that he had to tell me one thing that happened in each of his classes as soon as he got home. This gave me some insight into his day, he was in control to tell me whatever he wanted to tell me and my feelings were safe because he didn’t just come in and hide in his room until dinner. The rule also included that I could ask one question, but he had the freedom to choose to elaborate or not. Maybe your expectation is a high and a low, or a time set aside for tea and talking, whatever the case, set the expectation and stay involved.

Down Time is VERY Important

These kids are growing up…literally. Legs and muscles and brains are literally growing before our eyes. They are often starving, exhausted, and moody. They are busy. They are taking lots of classes that are just plain hard. They have the stress of school, not to mention the stress of relationships and friendships. You want to do the best for your kids?  Give them down time. Make them rest. Let them sleep in when they can. Make them go to bed early when they can. Teach them self care now because a bath helps everyone! At the end of my son’s sophomore year I was shocked at how much he accomplished that year: School, sports, Covid, friends, work…it’s a lot! When you can, teach them to rest and allow them to have down time. They need it.

Text Them

Best way to communicate and stay involved with your teens is to text them. It’s just the way it is. I’m not saying don’t talk to them. But, if you want them to take the trash out, text them and now you have evidence that you did ask! Also, make texting fun. Use gifs, send them funny videos and tik toks, spend time watching tik toks with them on a Thursday night after dinner and laugh together. It’s the best. I am always done way before them and sometimes what they think is funny isn’t and they think I’m lame, but it’s still fun!

Realize This is NOT Your High School Experience

Ya’ll. This one is THE ONE you have to REMEMBER! They may look like you, they may act like you, they may even think like you…THEY ARE NOT YOU! This is their time to experience high school. You already did. You made the mistakes, so let them make the mistakes. You made the decisions, so let them make the decisions. What they will walk through may be similar to your story, but it is NOT your story…it’s theirs. I see so many parents struggle with this. They put their own past fears and struggles on their kids and they try to intervene or prevent something or parent against something when, hold on…that hasn’t happened yet! Just because it worked out that way for you, doesn’t mean it will work the same way for them. Allow your teens to enjoy these years without putting on extra expectations rooted in how you did or did not experience high school. It’s their turn, give them the right to experience it their way.

Let Parenting Take a Back Seat

If you have done the job of parenting all these years, high school is where parenting begins to step back and you are now more of a coach or mentor. Of course, there are still moments where you have to parent, but as they grow older that title fades and that is a good thing!! Your teens NEED YOU, but instead of telling them what to do or doing it all for them, show them and coach them on how to go about this life. Help them make decisions by laying out the things for them, not deciding. In hard situations, give them different perspectives and lead them to what is best. Any time they throw you the ball of their life, show them how to handle life’s situations and then throw it back and watch them make the touchdown.   

Hug Them When They Walk In

They have been away the whole day. All day they have dealt with teachers and tests, friendships, coaches yelling, so much talking, structure and the stress of school. When they come home and drop their bags on the floor and kick off their shoes and sigh because, they made it through the day and are home, THIS is when you smile at them and hug them and say ” I am so glad you are home.” It may be awkward if you aren’t huggy people; I would try to get over that and maybe start with a side hug or a squeeze of their arms and look into their eyes at the very least. Studies have shown how much we need physical contact and your teens especially do. So hug them. Let them know in that hug how much they are loved and valued and that no matter what happened at school, they are home and safe and good. 

As the years have passed, the end of these high school years is closer than I ever thought they would be. These years can be difficult to navigate, but I have loved them more than any other season because it is also filled with so much fun. I tell my kids to ENJOY these years and I plan to do the same.


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Andrea Portilla
Andrea is a true Houston native! Other than her college years at Baylor and a few summers with family in Guatemala, she has lived around the Houston area forever and cannot imagine living anywhere else. Especially because of family nearby as built in babysitters, so many friendships built throughout the years, and the great people of this city, Houston is so dear to her heart. In junior high her family moved to the Sugar Land area, but she attended a high school in town and spent as much time as possible at the Galleria in the 90s! After graduating from Baylor University with a degree in Secondary Education, she married her high school sweetheart, Orlando, and they moved to the Richmond area where they have been ever since and where she homeschools their son and 2 daughters, ages 15, 12 & 9. Andrea is very active in Women’s ministry at her church and in her community. She began writing for more therapeutic reasons when the kids were small and soon began writing publicly, remembering her love for writing and realizing the gift and calling that it was in her life. She published her first book, Breathless: Prayers from a Mother Learning to Exhale in 2018, a devotional last year and is currently working on a few new projects. In her down time, Andrea loves alone time, especially because she’s an enneagram 4! She also loves coffee, hanging out with her family and friends, traveling, New York City, musicals, especially Hamilton, fair trade jewelry, and charcuterie boards! You can find her writing at www.andreaportilla.com or follow her on Instagram @dreaportilla and on Facebook.


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