To My Teenage Daughter, Before You Begin High School

high school

Among the brightly colored folders, gooey gel pens, and a fancy, but not too fancy backpack, lay a scribbled list of suggestions for my third and last child as she begins her years of high school.

I want her to know these upcoming years are for learning about herself, discovering what she likes, what her skills and interests are, and for learning in what direction she thinks she may go. My hope is for the high school years to be enlightening and purposeful, but more importantly, I hope they create, for the most part, a positive memory full of learning, laughter, and fun.

So, to my teenage daughter, here are 4 pieces of advice as you begin High School.

1. Smile.

Be conscience of this all the time. Without a soft smile, we all look unapproachable. As you walk into school and down the halls, look others in the eye and smile. Be approachable.

2. Be kind.

High school is the arena of cliques, and can be really scary. You will find your people. You will naturally gravitate to girls who are just like you, with interests, ideas, goals, and dreams similar to yours. You don’t have to be friends with every group, but do be kind to everyone. Be kind to classmates outside of your group.

3. Engage.

Be Involved. Be a part of something. Join a club, play a sport, lead a committee, sing, cheer, play an instrument. You will never regret being a part of something. You will learn skills applicable to life and gain experience that may direct you towards a career.

4. Academics come first.

Before any game, party, social dance, date, or job, school work and grades take priority. It is your one focus at this time in your life. Study hard, do your best, sit in the front, participate, ask questions. Let your teachers know who you are and that you care. And ALWAYS do the extra credit.

Your studies are priority and should be taken seriously, but not too seriously. You will do your best in the most challenging classes for you. You will learn responsibility, organization, priorities, and deadlines, as well as communication skills. Learn to juggle. Classes, homework, sports, clubs, and friends must be managed. You will be juggling things for the rest of your life. Learn how in high school.

It is the first of many permanent records. Your demeanor, behavior, GPA, attendance, truancy, and effort all matter. You will be challenged and disappointed many times. Friends will disappoint you. You will have to learn from these setbacks. How you handle them defines your character. You can build courage, confidence, and resilience from learning how to handle challenges.

Make happy memories my sweet girl. Follow your heart and engage, discover, laugh, and learn; and remember I am always among your brightly colored school supplies, happily cheering you on.


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Elizabeth Dardes
Elizabeth has a MA in English and is a college educator living near the beach in South Carolina. A mom of two young adult sons and one teenage daughter, she often receives texts from her kids asking her where she is. Find her on Instagram where she posts her fledging travel photos.