A Letter from an Alum Parent – On Transitioning to High School

An open letter, offered with love, to the FSMN graduating class of 2019, from Christina Boyd-Smith.

Dear Friends at Friends School of Minnesota,

As graduation draws close I have been thinking about the transition from Friends School of Minnesota to high school and how significant it has been for our family. For the most part, it’s been smooth, especially for my children. The truth is, they navigated the transition more smoothly than I did.

I was surprised to find that the change was hardest on me. I’ve learned a lot about how an FSMN education prepares our children, about what the FSMN community has meant to us, and about how that all comes together in the transition to high school.

As a gift to all of you, the beloved community of my children’s childhood, I share these thoughts and lessons as you start the process of launching your own children into the world beyond Friends School of Minnesota. Each child and each family is different. I hope my reflections serve to make your own unique transition as smooth as it can be for you and your family.

Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Watching your child graduate from Friends School carries a potent mixture of pride, excitement, and deep sadness. I was surprised at the level of my grief during the summer after 8th grade and into the first 6 weeks or so of 9th.  I cried. A lot. I grieved the loss of a beloved community as part of our daily lives and the loss of my children’s childhood. I was caught off guard at the extent of my grief, and share this with you in case you find yourself with similarly powerful feelings.
  2. The last time we did the whole school-searching thing was for our kindergartner. I had to remember when my daughter walked into her first day of high school that even though it felt like I was sending my baby off into the big world, she is no longer a baby. The girl who walked into 9th grade is not the same girl we dropped off in Marshall’s class on her first day at FSMN. As you navigate the move to high school, remember that your baby is no longer a baby.
  3. Our children are prepared. Both of our children have demonstrated incredible emotional intelligence. Our children are prepared. Both of our children have demonstrated incredible emotional intelligence. They can handle change. They can think and write and read. They know how to find their people and make friends. They know who they are and what they care about. Friends School set our children up to succeed in life, and it shows in the transition to high school. I’m astounded at how ready they both are to handle increasing independence. Once I got over my grief, it’s been exciting to witness who they are becoming as young adults.
  4. They have more homework and that is ok. In fact, it’s great since they are diving into all sorts of cool high school learning. They’ve had to make choices about their extra-curricular activities. Activities in high school generally require more time and commitment. Some things have been removed from the list, and some have stayed. That is great, too.
  5. There will be bumps. There will be days when your child feels lonely. Or fails a test. Or is stressed. Or exhausted. Or days when you feel scared or lonely or lost. Some of those bumps were incredibly painful for me. Like sending my daughter onto a soccer field in August with girls she didn’t know or dropping her at her first dance or my son spending the night with a family I hadn’t yet met in person. Their courage inspires me. Watching them walk into these experiences that are separate from me hurts a little. They have learned their own strength and ability to handle new situations. They trust themselves. In the painful moments when I was crying to my mother, it would have helped me to know that my children would thrive. They truly are thriving. Yours will, too.
  6. It’s rather amazing how quickly they made friends. Some days, it took longer than my impatient, extrovert self could stand. Their FSMN friends were important and secure relationships in the midst of the transition.
  7. Have so much compassion for everything they are taking in as they start high school – new academics, new teachers, a new building, a new routine (that usually involves getting up MUCH earlier), new activities, new kids, and changing dynamics with old friends. Give the transition some time.
  8. The way my children and I relate has shifted. As they became progressively more independent, I was fired as their manager. They manage their own social schedules, make their own plans, choose their own activities, and navigate their own academics and use of time. At first I didn’t take the loss of my manager role well. I’d spent years parenting young children, and had no alternate model. So, I went out in search of that new model. I read a bunch of books about teens. (Let me know if you want my top recommendations.) I looked at the places I got stuck in my own…shall we say…stuff. My children and I developed new agreements in our relationship. I was rehired as their consultant, and we’ve settled into a lovely, enjoyable, loving connection.
  9. I assumed that high school would be the end of school as a source of my social life. In our experience, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. High school has opened new doors to new people and another fantastic community, and as a raging extrovert, I couldn’t be happier to discover that.

FSMN has given me and my family a legacy that we will carry with us forever. We know the value of a powerful community and seek that community everywhere we go. FSMN gave us high standards, and the world out there has been ready to step up to meet them.

Thank you to all of you for everything you’ve given me and our family over the years.

Warmly,

Christina

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