A parent’s perspective is often foggy.
As a high school teacher I focus my attention on the student and work to develop good relationships with each of them. It is always interesting when I get to meet their parents at “Back to School Night”, or during my introductory phone calls in September. Talking with parents requires me to shift my focus to the parent perspective, their questions are a good exercise in alternative points of view.
Parents want to hear information, but they want it to be positive. They want to know what I am going to do to help their son or daughter get good grades. Some will tell me all of their child’s special requirements or accommodations. It is great to know which parents are involved and will be a resource for any problems in the year ahead.
In my large high school, our 40% parental involvement is considered a good amount. That leaves 60% of the students with less than involved parents. This is a troubling indicator every teacher understands as we start making those phone calls home.
The difficult part of course, is sharing the bad info about their student and what is happening in the classroom. Education is a balance of responsibility between teachers, students and parents. Assignments and grades are in plain sight online but many parents are not watching them going up or down. Discipline plans are always in place and I prefer to work with the students directly, but there comes the time for the parental (or guardian) conversation. It amazes me how many parents exist in a fog about their teenager when I call home.
Today, I would encourage every parent to get more involved in their teenager’s life. They will fight it but you need to do it anyway. The days are already numbered for them to be planning their escape, take a position while you can.
If something seems strange with your teenager, do not ignore it. My own daughter was acting odd the summer between middle and high schools and I was quick to intervene. If I didn’t act I know it would have continued and gotten worse. My approach at the time is what I still believe works.
A disruption and refocus in needed.
For my daughter, she is very bright and was bored with neighborhood kids. Her friends from middle school were all going to different high schools, her anxiety was high. She was staying up late and watching new tv shows I did not particularly approve of. Tattoo and piercings became a new obsession. I did not like the road she was looking at following for that summer.
The University of Maryland offers a summer college camp and it was the perfect solution. Smart students from across the country came for 6 weeks of dorm life and auditing a college course. Everything was included from field trips to meals in the cafeteria, with limited supervision to ease parent fears. It provided a glimpse of college life to turnaround my daughter’s perspective of her future.
She chose a class in Sociology and her dorm mate was interested in Photography. They hit it off within 10 minutes and continued to be friends after the camp. Things were different for my daughter from that point forward, she was empowered and with a high-quality group of peers who challenged her to become her best self. The disruption or break from whatever was going on here at home was enough to refocus her. Provided positive support and direction at a critical time was exactly what University of Maryland’s program did.
It doesn’t really matter what the problem was that caused a teen to go off course. I’ve seen everything from homelessness to parental domestic violence – things no teen should face and yet often bare greatest responsibility for. From un-diagnosed medical conditions to overly medicated students, even learning disabilities can without support. I’m not being judgmental, I want to call it out and get it resolved, too many teens need help.
Talking with parents is a critical part of the process and I was lucky to be invited onto Pumped up Parenting with Celia Kibler. Here’s the link to her episode just published today! Celia works with parents and answers questions about all types of kid issues from her 40 years of experience. It was great to encourage parents when they are struggling with their struggling teen, because we all want the best for our children.
I have heard too many parents say they don’t know what to do and are giving up. NO!! That is never what you need to do!! I know you get frustrated and it seems like you’ve tried everything. So, ok then ask me to help your teen!!
It is possible to find a new direction and focus in just 31 days!