Welcome to high school! Whether your teen is homeschooled or attends public/private school, it’s a brave new world. For most parents you will find yourself flooded with memories, good and bad, of your own high school experiences as your child goes through the years. After getting our three oldest sons through high school, I feel qualified to offer you a few tips on getting through high school with less angst on your part or your teen’s. These are things that stand out to me based on my own kids’ journey through high school.
- You had your turn. You went to high school. You had your own experience. Having a high school age child does not give you a chance to re-do high school. This means you have to be the grown up. Do not share clothes with your teenage daughter. No matter how great of shape you’re in, you’ll look like a mom trying to be a teenager again.
- Get your own friends. By all means be friendly and welcome your teen’s friends into your home. Stock up on snacks. But, always remember, you are not their friend. Do not gossip, text or “hang out” with your teen’s friends. Your child deserves to have his own friends. Make friends with people your own age with whom you share common interests.
- Don’t be that parent. You know, the parent who is ugly at sporting, music or other events. Unless a coach, teacher or other adult is doing something that hurts your child, stay out of it. Don’t hunt the coach down after practice to ask why your child isn’t playing “xx” position. Don’t call and argue about grades with a teacher without good reason. Encourage your child to speak up for himself if he feels he’s being treated unfairly. It’s an important skill and he’s more likely to get a favorable result.
- Take the high road. If you find yourself in a setting with adults who also have teenage children, don’t fall into the one-upmanship trap. Some people love nothing more than to compare children. Bite your tongue if you’re baited and simply say, “Why yes, Sarah did take the SAT and we are so pleased with her score.” Then stop. Change the subject.
- Your child is NOT you. Some of us, ahem, may not have been the greatest teenagers in the world. Just because you broke curfew, skipped school or any of the many possible transgressions this does not automatically mean your child will do the same. Do not let the fear that 20/20 hindsight gives us permission to dictate your teen’s world.
- Start letting go now. Yes, in a few short years your child will be an adult. They might head off to college or the military or start a career. Help them start their adult lives by giving them increased freedoms now. It’s tempting, in 2015, to monitor your child’s every move. There are apps that allow you to do this. But, is it necessary? Yes, you want to know what your child is doing online. But, do you need to be able to follow him via GPS as he drives to meet friends for a movie? Do you need to text him in the middle of a date to remind him of curfew? Consider having a few clear, hard-set rules instead. If a rule is violated, then you restrict some freedoms until your child earns them back. It’s a give and take. Give your child the freedom to make mistakes while he’s still living at home rather than have him go wild once he’s on his own.
Having teens is a unique experience. Let it be their own unique experience! Remind yourself it’s not about you. Start with trust rather than assuming they’re going to do the worst. Slowly let them take charge of their lives while you stand by ready to catch them if they fall. If you assume the best of your teen, odds are you will get the best. Really.