SERIES: Your child’s learning in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades — Part 3:  Your child’s learning in the 9th grade

SERIES: Your child’s learning in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades — Part 3: Your child’s learning in the 9th grade

Ninth grade, the beginning of high school, is a crucial year in your child’s path toward graduation. The Common Core 9th grade curriculum will expect your child to continue expanding the skills they have begun to acquire in middle school in increasingly sophisticated ways (see Common Core 9th grade standards at http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/).

This transition can be as difficult as that from high school to college and many 9th graders are at risk for dropping out. The school environment becomes more chaotic, and managing class schedules and homework is more challenging. High school freshmen are also developing their identities and becoming increasingly independent. It is also a time when kids’ brains are experiencing huge cognitive, physical and emotional changes, and they are vulnerable to poor decision making and impulsivity, and possibly experimenting with drugs, sex and other risk-taking behaviors.

While adolescents develop at different rates, your 9th grader is beginning to acquire the following competencies (http://www.parenttoolkit.com):

  • Self-awareness: includes knowing and understanding your feelings, strengths and weaknesses, and the impact of your emotions on your behavior and decisions. Self-awareness is crucial in managing goal-directed behavior and making healthy decisions, and will help your child thrive in high school.
  • Self-management: the ability to recognize your feelings and control your behavior and reactions to situations that are frustrating or anger-inducing.
  • Social awareness: the ability to consider the perspectives of other people, to develop meaningful and healthy relationships with others, and to understand how their behavior affect others.
  • Responsible decision-making: making choices that are good for your teen and for others.

Parents are also adjusting to a new stage in their parenting career. To support your 9th grader, you can:

  • Encourage your teen to be involved in social, academic and community activities
  • Make yourself available, spend time alone with your teen, help them make decisions, and listen to them
  • Make family dinners a priority
  • Negotiate appropriate rules and expectations
  • Know your child’s friends, activities and course assignments
  • Limit the time your child spends on computer games and social media
  • Help your teen stay on track and plan for the future
  • Make sure your teen’s classes are considered “college prep” to be eligible for most four-year colleges
  • Find a balance between the temptation to push your teen into courses that are too challenging, and allowing them to take the easiest courses possible
  • Encourage your teen to build relationships with teachers, counselors, coaches and friends who support his/her aspirations and keep them on track and motivated during times of stress
  • Investigate summer enrichment programs in your area that align with your teen’s interests
  • Help your child, or find someone else who can, improve their organizational and study skills
  • Encourage the use of “Freshman Academy” or other support services in school

If your 9th grader is struggling, and you become concerned about his or her development or school performance, psychotherapy as well as psychological or neuropsychological testing can be helpful.