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LLANO — While students face many transitions on their way from kindergarten to graduation, one of the most challenging comes when they move from eighth grade to ninth grade.

The jump from middle school to high school definitely brings a new load of stresses, worries and challenges for students.

Parents can serve as a critical connection to help new freshmen make the adjustment a successful one.

“Parents need to stay on top of their student’s grades,” said Nita Fields, a Llano High School counselor. She offered that as probably the No. 1 piece of advice for new high school parents. Fields, who served as a freshmen counselor for many years, said the top problem she has witnessed was a student falling behind academically and the parent not knowing about it until the hole was pretty deep.

“Parents can check on their student’s grades on a daily basis,” she said. Llano High School uses a txConnect system that allows parents at any time to check their children’s grades from elementary through high school. Other school districts, such as Burnet and Marble Falls, have similar online checks.

If a parent waits until the six-week grades come out, they might get a surprise they don’t want. The key, counselors said, is not to wait.

Llano High School freshmen counselor Terrie Smarr pointed out parents need to stay vigilant in their student’s education.

“Check their grades online on a regular basis,” she said. “Attend as many meetings that the school offers as possible.”

High school academics tend to be a bit more challenging than the previous levels.

“Parents can help their students stay on track by encouraging them to focus on their academics, but also allowing them to have some freedom as well,” Smarr said. “Parents should encourage their child to take the most rigorous academic path appropriate for their child.”

Along with tougher academics, students find themselves surrounded by numerous of clubs, teams and other extracurricular activities. While being active is beneficial, sometimes too much of a good thing can hurt.

“If parents can help kids balance their extracurriculars and academics, then that can really help keep the student from feeling overwhelmed,” Fields said.

However, it can be tough to tell a youth “no,” especially when even extracurriculars have such a positive impact on a student. Yet that’s exactly what parents sometimes must do, Smarr said.

“Parents may have to be the ‘bad guy’ to make sure their child is not overwhelmed,” she said. “There are so many wonderful opportunities in high school, but students cannot choose to be active in them all,” she said. “It is probably beast to limit extracurricular activities to two or three at one time so they can also stay focused on their academics.”

On top of the academics and extracurriculars, high school adds on a new level of peer relationships.

All this just can pile onto a student.

Both Smarr and Fields pointed out parents need to keep a good line of communication open between themselves and their freshmen as well as between themselves and the school, especially teachers.

“Parents should be an advocate for their child but also keep an open line of communication with teachers so they understand expectations,” Smarr said. “Again, check grades on a regular basis. Talk with their child when they are in the car together or at meal times. Communication is vital.”

And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for help.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to their teachers,” Fields added. “Call the counselors. You can set up an appointment with a teacher if you have concerns. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”