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Question
Posted by: Dad | 2018/05/19

Should a 12 year old choose his high school?

Hi Dr Simpson, My 12 year old son is currently in grade 4 at a junior school and we need to choose a high school. His name has been down at two very different schools (in different provinces) since he was two years old. Some parents seem to feel the decision of which high school to go to is completely up to the child. I personally feel a 12 year old is not equipped to make such an important decision - they don’t have the life experience or maturity to understand the gravity of the choice they are faced with. The one school is prettier, in the country and offers extra murals like fishing, is a boarding school, and his friends might going there which sounds like fun. These things are superficially exciting and a choice may be made on this basis. The other school is equally brilliant academically and in reputation, offers him the opportunity to live at home and grow up with his sister and 3 step brothers. His step brothers go to the school nearby and the siblings are all very close and adore each other. Personally I feel the local school is a better option as it offers him the opportunity to grow up with his siblings. If he goes to boarding school, his holidays and terms will be different to his 4 siblings and he will only get 3 weeks a year with them every December. He seems keen on the local school but his mother is adamant he needs to mke the decision and would prefer him to go away to boarding school.. Do you think a 12 year old is equipped to make a major life decision like this? He is easily influenced and I fear he could be pushed into making a decision that’s not best for him in the long run.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink
- 2018/05/24

Hi Dad,
Firstly, I'm sorry that someone, I don't know who, has caused needless delays in putting your question to me, so I can answer it. 
I think that around the age of 12, the role of a child in major life decisions would be absolutely not to actually make such decisions ( for the reasons you mention ), but to learn about how to make such decisions.
You help him to think about all the many relevant factors, and how to weight them up, how to see the snags, the thorns on the stems of the roses.
I wonder why his mother is so set on him making the decision alone : does she insist that he choose his own diet, even if he wants to eat nothing but chocolate ?  Some parents have mysterious ideas that it's marvelous for a child to go to a boarding school, which is nonsense.  Some kids thrive there, others hate every moment of it. Did she attend a boarding school very pleasantly, and might she be over-generalizing from her own experiences ?

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Our users say:
Posted by: Anonymous | 2018/05/24

To be honest I wish I had been given a choice. I ended up going to a high school where I had no friends (because my friends had all gone to other schools and I ended up being friendly to people I went to primary school with but we NEVER hung out outside of school). I was bullied there, and I feel that if I had actual friends that would have made it more manageable. I felt completely like an outcast and I'm sure that's where my (diagnosed) depression started. I personally don't believe academics is everything and that should be the only thing to take into consideration. The school has a good history in that regard, but will your son manage? Will it make a difference at the end of the day? I've never been turned down a job offer based on where I went to school It's like work- sure the pay may be good but the actual environment makes you cry in your bath every night. The mothers motivations needs to be questioned- does she want the child to go to the boarding school so she doesn't have to take care of him, or does she honestly feel like it would be a good experience for him? Ultimately he can also change schools if he doesn't like it- it's not set in stone that that's the school he must stay at for the rest of his school career.

Reply to Anonymous
Posted by: Anonymous | 2018/05/23

Hi, I think they are young for so short a time and life flies by and then they are off to varsity etc, and then they can maybe make abit more of a decision concerning their future, andit is quite a change that they go through at this time, and can be so easily influenced and being away when the rest of the family are at home could make him eventually feel excluded and resentful , even though that is not what the intent was. When they are at home you can see when he needs help or a hug or just letting him learn family dynamics in action. Ultimately every family needs to make their own decisions, you can listen to his reasoning, but I think at that age as you say, they are not mature enough to make such a life changing decision and the end decision should be an adult decision. And if the education is of equal comparison then it shouldn't be a problem. That's probably why they can only drive at a certain age, drink etc etc. I wish you all the best, I can hear you care for him very deeply.

Reply to Anonymous

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