Dear Frosh Parents:

    Thank you to all the parents who joined me for the tea.  

    Also, a BIG thank you to Naiya DeLaure & Nick Sarran (Class of 2019) (and Quincy Smith & Alessia Potovsky, Class of 2018, and Tai Soladay, Class of 2017) for sharing their wisdom and experience as a “professional teenagers” successfully navigating the high school years.

    Nick S & Naiya D

    Below is a not so brief outline of some of the topics and information shared at the meeting this and past years.  It is a combination of both student and counselor perspectives.  Enjoy.

    Open Communication with Parents: the most significant support for successfully navigating the high school years

    ·         Keeping lines open so that any topic is acceptable

    ·         Students want parents to bring up difficult topics with them (since they are only 14 or 15 and uncomfortable starting the conversation)

    • What is our plan if I am at a party/event and feel uncomfortable and want to come home?  Can I call you and will you come get me without me getting grounded?
    • What exactly is safe sex and what are the kinds of things I need to consider before embarking on that territory?
    • What if my friend asks me to share my answers on a test?

    ·         Students want an adult role model they feel safe talking with (i.e., mom, dad, Aunt Sally)

    ·         As a teenager, my ideas are expanding daily and weekly, and my opinions are changing frequently.  It is important to be there as a resource for me, not as the person who gets too narrowly focused on my opinion of the day.

    ·         There is a great deal of pressure to do everything at once, and be "excellent" at everything simultaneously.  This is unrealistic and  not achievable for most of us.

    ·         Ask us questions about our day, what resources we need from you as parents, and what types of things are causing us stress.  Make them open-ended.

    ·         Not all of our conversations need to revolve around school.  Let's talk about books you are reading, your day, something interesting you saw on the news, the latest movies, how you manage due dates, etc. If you want to talk about school, consider setting up 1-2 times per week to review how things are going and my needs as a student, instead of every day.   Some days I just need a break from that conversation.

    ·         Speaking of movies, let's make a prearranged plan to see some instead of fighting the night of the movie - especially if the movie is our way to put our fight "on hold" and just spend time together

    • We learn a lot about your values and qualities by spending time with you, and dinner together as a family is a great time to connect.  In our house, we go around the table and do 'Peaches & Pits' where we share a highlight of our day (peach) and a challenge (pit).  Some people call is 'Roses & Thorns' but whatever you call it, it is an opportunity for every member of the family to be heard and to listen and empathize with others.


    ·         Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for teenagers

    ·         If your student is up late working or staring into a screen (iPad, computer, TV), feel free to set a reasonable boundary.  Rest is essential to the learning process

    ·         See “In the News!” on Souder’s webpage for links to articles about sleep or check out the National Sleep Foundation information about teens and sleep. 

    Quincy, Alessia & Lily

    Balance Extracurricular Activities & School

    ·         Athletics, band, drama, mock trial & dance classes are but a few of the activities that students participate in.  These activities allow students to pursue interests beyond the classroom and bring joy and new experiences into their lives

    ·         Maintaining balance while striving to excel in a variety of areas is a challenge

    ·         Keep talking with your student about the importance of prioritizing, and sometimes cutting out activities that over-extend them

    ·         The key is experimenting with the perfect combination of challenge, creativity, the pursuit of physical fitness and relaxation

    ·         Manage Perfectionism by helping your student realize that there are natural consequences for doing all the work of peers (i.e., sleepless nights, arguments with peers, grumpiness over unfairness of life). Also, accept as a parent that one low grade on an assignment or project is never a terrible thing, as the focus is on the growth over a course of years, not on excellence on every single project or assignment this year.  Especially realize that 9th grade is a year of fits and starts, challenges, frustrations and small victories.  Keep the BIG PICTURE in mind. 

    ·         Don't try to solve all of your student's dilemmas.  Listen, make them cocoa (preferably with whipped cream), and ask them what ideas they might want to try to resolve the issue.  Refer them to their Crew Leader (the junior and senior students in their Advisory Crews).  These Leaders have lived similar issues and survived to tell the tale - and they provide solid adivce to help your student navigate rocky waters. 

    ·         Balancing all of my student responsibilities and activities is an art with no perfect balance.  The beauty is in choosing the things I like to do and pursuing those. I learned a lot about values and developed a lot of my character which playing three sports each year. 

    Consider the type of person you are raising your child to become and have her/him spend time in activities that help her/him to develop into that adult.  Adulthood is not about GPA or SAT scores; it is about values and qualities.  


    ·         Watch Screenagers - lots of good information, but there is no one right or only answer for your child or your family

    ·         Be very much mindful of screens and the amount of time they absorb in your own and your child's life.  Model the behavior you want to see in your child

    ·         Family time - set some aside every day and put all of the screens away.  Example: no screens at dinner, no screens for evening check-in.  Help your student realize that having a phone is a privilege, not a right.

    As for daily check-in with your child, it is highly advisable.  Please don't ask "how was your day?" or "did you ace that test?"  Please ask things like: "What did you learn today?"  "What was the most interesting part of your day?"  "What was challenging for you today?"  Then, quietly wait while we reflect on the day so that we can answer.  Students have very little "downtime" to reflect, think about what was important in their day, or even think about how it applies to their own life.  They are often so busy getting on to the next task, that reflection is in short supply.  Parents can be very critical in assisting with this.


    ·         Not everyone is doing it (despite the rumors to the contrary)

    ·         Some students don’t go to parties until senior year (what parties?  We didn’t know there were parties in 9th & 10th grade)

    ·         Senior students recommend that 9th & 10th grade students focus on their academics and athletics and wait until junior year for parties with older peers

    ·         Again, MODEL the behavior you wish to see in your student.  They are always watching you for clues as to how to behave as an adult

    ·         Here is a FANTASTIC 3 minute video to watch with your student about consent.  It's clever and funny and makes the point.  It's called Tea Consent, and I guarantee you will love it. 

    ·         We highly recommend that parents continue to spend time with their students each week.  Enjoying family pursuits strengthens the family bond and helps students explore their personal values so that they can make good decisions. With the legalization of marijuana for adults, students will be looking to parents for increase communication and guidance.  They will be receiving a lot of messages, and need to hear your message loud and clear (and often)

    ·         Students will always be looking toward their parents to see how you manage stress and conflicting priorities, as they explore their own values

    ·         Go bowling, golfing, camping, biking, to movies, etc.  What is the thing you did together and enjoyed when they were 10?  Talk about adding that back into the routine.  Ask what your child wants to do.  If you can't come to perfect agreement, strike a compromise.  Child picks the activity this week, parent picks the one in two weeks.  Try not to force them into things they hate, hence the talking and compromising. 

    ·         Have a safe word or phrase your child can communicate when s/he needs you to rescue them and ensure their safety.  Examples are: a text asking if you fed the dog, a Ninja Turtle Emoji!  These work.  Kids like knowing they can rely on you to take the fall for making them leave a party or other situation that doesn't feel safe

    ·         You can communicate to your child that you don't agree with drug and/or alcohol experimentation, but still keep them safe if they try it anyway.  Have a plan to get them home safe, and save the questions or conversation for another day (again, pausing for reflection - and this is really hard to do if you are mad, so be kind to yourself and your child during trying times)

    ·         Have your child check in and say goodnight when they get home.  Don't just go to sleep and expect them to keep their curfew if you are not checking on them.  Too tempting to stay out lateTai Soladay (Cl of 2017)

    Helpful Information

    ·         Souder’s Website:  https://www.tamdistrict.org/page/2102

    ·         In the News: articles posted regularly on student well-being, college admissions, parenting, etc. 

    ·         Book Recommendations:  Overviews of books that I have enjoyed and think could be interesting and/or helpful in supporting your student to navigate the world of adolescence

    ·         Frosh Year Information:  a host of links and resources focused specifically on frosh year

    ·         Four Year Plan:  this site has linked to worksheet that students and parents can view and change as they consider options for courses throughout their tenure at Drake.  There are links to the Instructional Guide graduation requirements and the UC/CSU a-g eligibility requirements for college

    ·         Alumni Advice & Info:  several links with input from current and former students on college search & application, as well as advice from students in their first years of college

    • Ross Valley Healthy Community Collaborative (RVHCC):  The goal is to improve health and wellness of the community via raising awareness.  Many fantastic events and parenting tools
    • Be The Influence: Drake Parent Club and RVHCC invite you to make a commitment to discourage teen alcohol or drug use
    • Read The Teenage Brain by Frances Jensen (this link will take you to my Book Recommendations where you will find a book synopsis with all the scientific info reviewed, and a past newsletter with parent recommendations based on the book)
    • Read The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart.  This book is real, insightful, funny, heartwarming and totally 'spot on' in terms of wired teenagers and creative ways to connect in real time with real people - your kids!

     Winter of Our Disconnect


    Last updated by Sheila R Souder, on 04/03/2019