A letter to my daughter on her first day of high school

One mother writes a tender letter of advice for her daughter's first day of high school. She offers 4 ideas to guide her daughter through the next 4 years.

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  • Dear Daughter,

  • I forbid you to go to high school. You must return to your toddler days when playing and laughing were your biggest concerns and taking a walk to gather dandelions and watch bugs was the highlight of your day. We'll stay home together and eat applesauce and make sure to take our nap.

  • No?

  • Well, if you must go to high school, I have 4 thoughts to guide you over the next 4 years. I know you are talented and capable, but everyone struggles in some way during their teenage years. Maybe the lessons I learned twenty years ago will help you as you start your freshman year.

  • Be kind to everyone

  • My first piece of advice was given to me by your grandma. When I was young, she often discouraged me from having a small group of friends, what we called a "clique." She used to say, "Don't like just one person, like everyone." She was right. You can have close friends, and even a BFF, but you need to be kind to everyone.

  • Smile in the hallways, make friends with new classmates and seek out those who seem to be alone. You are by nature a friendly and kind person. Your love will help those who are sad and struggling. Being kind to everyone will save you from disagreements and drama, which you definitely want to avoid.

  • Don't worry about what others think

  • I hope I've instilled in you more confidence than I had in myself at your age. I spent too much time worrying about what others were thinking of me, particularly boys. Now I know that boys don't spend nearly as much time worrying about girls, and I was making myself overly anxious trying to fit in and be liked.

  • It's natural to want to feel accepted. True friends will always accept you, so don't waste emotional energy worrying about what other people think of you. Chances are, they are feeling just as insecure about themselves and want acceptance, too.

  • Find yourself, then be yourself

  • You have so much potential, and I'm not just saying that because you're my daughter. You have varied talents and abilities, and you can learn anything you desire. Spend some time during these years trying new things. Don't expect to be perfect at everything. Learn from your failures and use mistakes as chances to grow and become better.

  • Once you know who you are, be true to yourself. You have strong values and a good sense of right and wrong. Don't let others sway you from what you know. Your family will always be close to help you and love you, and your home is always a safe place to be.

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  • You are not "too cool for school"

  • High school is a time of socialization, activities and fun, but it's also a time to learn. You have ambitions and goals for your future, and developing good study habits and learning as much as you can now will help you be successful in college and in your future career. Some kids skip class, ignore homework assignments and procrastinate on projects 99 percent of the time — don't be those kids.

  • As you take hard classes and face deadlines, you'll feel stressed. With help from your parents and determination, you will do well. Take advantage of clubs and service opportunities too.

  • It's hard to believe you'll be leaving home in 4 short years. You have blessed my life since the day I first held you in my arms (after a very long delivery, I might add). Your dad and I are a little nervous but mostly excited for you to start this new phase of life. We love you and believe in you. Have a great first day of school, and don't eat your dessert first.

  • Love, Mom

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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