Mama Mantra: Junior Year Is Going To Be Hard

Posted July 11, 2023 by Prairie Wife - 4 comments

Junior year of High School is (in my opinion) the most challenging year for parents and students.

And perhaps the real mama mantra for this year is “Share your thoughts and then step back and let them see what happens.”

A wide variety of factors go into the stress and growth your child will experience their Junior year and while I’ll do my best to share with you a few solutions or ideas to help you out, in the end, just know that it will be tough.

First, academically Junior year tends to be pretty challenging for most students.

The classes require a higher level of thinking, the assignments have more components and stricter deadlines, and the courses themselves are simply more complex. Calculus isn’t easy for most of us, and with online courses readily available, you will likely find that your Junior will be taking college classes for college credit. Add to this the ACTs and the fact that there is no denying that your child’s GPA from this year can make or break scholarship opportunities for students that plan to attend college…and you can see why things get a little stressful!

So what can you do to support your Junior?

This is the year to teach them good time management skills. Help your Junior figure out what kind of organizational style works best for them and encourage them to use it often (otherwise known as nagging). With this age, Digital is often the way to go, so teach them to put deadlines and reminders into their phones. Our oldest son is a visual learner, so he has a large whiteboard on the wall of his room where he writes down important dates and tasks.

Teach your kids how to break down an enormous task/deadline into smaller tasks/deadlines to ensure everything gets done. And most importantly, teach them to look at the big picture of their week and month and plan ahead.

Our family knows High School State Wrestling is a busy and exhausting time. We try to plan and have our kids work early on more extensive projects due during this time, communicate with their teachers, and encourage them to keep from loading up their schedules with too many other commitments.

Keep in mind that things ARE going to fall through the cracks. Our Juniors are still kids, and despite the constant nagging and setting them up for success, they will miss something or get lazy.

When this happens, don’t save them.

Complain and stress quietly in the background to your spouse or friends, but play it calm and cool in front of your Junior. Remind them that a lower grade that forces them to take exams results from skipping assignments or not doing their best work. And let them deal with the real-life consequences of their choices. Trust me, this is a lesson they will learn, and it will pay off when they are in college and/or in the workforce as adults.

Second, Junior year tends to be pretty busy socially.

Prom, dating, driving, and the general busyness that begins when your kids enter High School goes into overdrive Junior Year.

And it should.

Now is the time for our kids to begin pulling away and learning who they are when we aren’t around. While it’s hard to say, “No problem, go have fun,” when they skip family movie night to hang out with friends, this is precisely what they should be doing! In a bit more than a year, they will be out on their own, and if they haven’t had this time to form relationships with your gentle guidance in the background, it will be a rough few years.

Be there to help them with the emotional ups and downs of friendships and dating, but also be REALLY careful not to belittle their feelings with “this won’t matter in a few months.” The key to helping at this age is a lot of listening and carefully asking if they’d like your advice. I find myself often saying “I know I can’t make this better, but I’m right here next to you while you figure it out.”

In our family, if our kids make good choices and keep up with their responsibilities at home and school, we let them go out almost whenever they ask. We WILL ask them to hang out and spend quality time with family when we feel like we haven’t seen them enough, and usually, they understand and happily oblige. Sometimes we question them about the wisdom of being out again when they are obviously stressed, being a bit snippy, and having some significant events coming up. But we will generally let them make the call.

This goes back to the real mama mantra for Junior year, “Share your thoughts and then step back and let them see what happens.” When they have to get up at 5 am the next day for a game and have a long night finishing up assignments after a full day of sports, they soon realize that maybe Mom and Dad weren’t controlling after all.

Again, it’s time for them to start dealing with the natural consequences of their actions, which, while hard to stand back and watch, is incredibly important!

Lastly, most kids decide what career they’d like to have during their junior year.

Trying to decide at 16/17 what you want to do for the rest of your life is more than a bit tricky. After all, I know many adults that still aren’t sure what job is the best fit for them. Yet, the hard truth is that if your child plans to pick a career that needs next-level education (college, trade school, or an apprenticeship), they need to know by the end of their junior year.

It will help them to pick the right colleges or schools to apply for in the Fall of their Senior year, and if they know what they want to be, they can also make the best use of their Senior year by taking classes that will help them be more successful in their chosen field.

Some kids just seem to know what they want, and I think it’s perfectly fine to roll with what they’ve decided. Several of our kids already have a solid idea of what they want to be, and we support it now with after-school activities and Summer jobs related to their chosen field. It’s a great way to help them have confidence in their choice OR helps them discover that maybe what they thought they wanted to do isn’t the right path.

For those of you who have kids that have no idea what they’d like to do, don’t stress too much. Instead of asking them what they want to do, try making a list of careers they have no interest in. Knowing they hate anything to do with math and can’t handle the site of blood takes many jobs off the table. Then look at what’s left and see if anything there intrigues them.

I’m a massive fan of offering nontraditional choices to our kids. Joining a charity or religious organization to travel around the world instead of going to college right after graduation may be exactly what your child needs. We have at least one child strongly considering becoming a welder or mechanic. The right choice for him will not be getting a degree at a 4-year University. Instead, it will be tech school or an apprenticeship. We also have family members that went the military route, and it was the perfect fit for them!

The primary way we can support our kids now is to help them create a plan for life after graduation, and the groundwork for that needs to start their Junior year.

Living at home and working at a local fast food place while they “figure it out” is a valid plan. Just make sure you have clear expectations of them helping you financially during this time (and make them follow through) and several preset times where you stop and talk and decide what the next step will look like. For example: We will happily have you here for the next year, but we need $75 out of each paycheck to cover food and housing costs. I expect you to help around the house. In one year, you should have enough money saved to get your own place with a roommate. We have no problem if, after that year, you still stay on our cellphone plan, take the car with you, and stop by to do laundry. BUT you will need to show us some signs of maturity and working towards your goals if you’d like to continue to have those things.

It’s also important to mention that all these decisions aren’t written in stone.

Yes, some commitments will involve some necessary follow-through even if our kids change their minds, but overall most kids can pivot or change their path if they want to!

It’s also essential to talk to your kids about looking at the big picture of their lives.

Teach them to take a deep breath and think about the long-term effects of the decisions they may be tempted to make based on temporary feelings.

“I know this is a challenging semester at school, but is quitting really the correct answer or simply the easiest solution right now? ”

And in the end don’t forget…

Share your thoughts and then step back and let them see what happens.

Some resources that may help:

If your child is interested in playing sports at the collegiate level, look into this website and what they offer.

If your children are like ours and will be responsible for the cost of their post High School education, this scholarship website is an excellent resource for all of you!

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4 thoughts on "Mama Mantra: Junior Year Is Going To Be Hard"

  1. Maura Kay says:

    I am so happy I came across your blog while googling “how to handle your child’s junior year of high school.” 🙂 I feel like I am constantly nagging my son about all the tasks he has to check off this year. It’s gotten to the point where I think I’m stressed out more than he is. You mentioned nagging above regarding finding a beneficial organization method. In your opinion, what is your definition of nagging? I always feel like I’m overdoing it but I also know that this semester is an important one so I don’t want to under-do it? Would be so interested to get your take on it or if you have any advice.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Oh that’s a great question! I feel like mentioning it every other day is about right…maybe only once a week when there is no looming deadline. My son and I found it helpful to actively put in our family calendar the day and time he was actively going to sit down and work on applications etc. and the ensured it got done and I wasn’t brining it up “non stop”. I feel like I need to make a video about this after I think about it more so stay tuned for one on our social sites…

      1. Maura Kay says:

        Thank you so much for your reply! This is so helpful. I think having some sort of a visual calendar where we can both see what’s been done and what still needs to get done would really alleviate the stress and overwhelm…for both of us. Appreciate the advice! And yes! A video on this subject would be so great! I have read a LOT of articles and blogs on the college process and yours was the first one that I could actually relate to. So thank you!

        1. Prairie Wife says:

          I’m SO glad I was able to help 🙂

Categories: Life As It Happens, Parenting, This and That



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