DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU MATTER AS THE
PARENT OF A HIGH SCHOOL TEEN?
TEN KEY TIPS FOR SURVIVING AND ENJOYING
© 2013 Anthony Pantaleno, Ph.D.
Elwood-John H. Glenn High School
off, please remember to tell your child that you love him or her every
day. Despite the trials and occasional roller-coaster rides of
adolescence, these days will pass and your unconditional love as a
parent will transcend your child’s GPA, his or her SAT score, and all
other challenges and achievements of these high school years. (I will
alternate the personal pronoun as we move forward for ease of reading).
acquainted with your child’s digital world. If you’re up to the
challenge, ask for your child’s Facebook password! Be right up front
and tell her that you’d like to occasionally see what she’s up to
online. This may give her pause before posting anything objectionable
online and may alert you to anything which looks suspect. Teens do not
always understand that what they post in cyberspace lives on forever and
may come back to bite them in the you-know-where in five years. Expect
that she will accuse you of invading her privacy, but know that
exercising good judgment about online communication is a skill that
takes years to develop and does not come as a free pass with the rite of
passage to thirteen.
3. Set a
time in the evening which you feel is reasonable for all electronic
communication to be ended in your home. This will help your teen to set
digital communication boundaries, to get the sleep they need, and to
avoid the toxic black hole of chatting into the night until 2am. If he
misses an urgent text from President Obama, please feel free to blame me
and I will accept full responsibility. Otherwise, maybe this time would
be better served having a face-to-face conversation with your child
about his day, or about your day, or about family matters.
the high school parent portal on a weekly basis. If you begin to see
that your child is missing homework, falling behind in handing in
science labs, or scoring poorly on quizzes or exams, immediately have
the conversation about how she plans to address this problem.
This is the beginning of the transfer of responsibility from your
“to-do” list to her “to-do” list. Follow up with her in a week. If the
problem persists, you may remove her phone, or computer, or car keys
until all independent work is up to date. If she tells you she is
struggling and needs help, reach out to the teacher first, or her
guidance counselor or the mental health team in your school. They will
be delighted to establish a plan with your child. My recipe for a
successful academic career in high school is the following:
percent attendance (we all become ill from time to time, but our goal is
percent homework completed
c) 1-2 hours
of study/project time five days per week, Monday through Thursday PLUS
Saturday OR Sunday ( this does NOT include homework time).
Meet-The-Teacher Night, if you have any concerns, make it a regular
habit to check in with your child’s teachers via e-mail every two or
three weeks to receive some feedback on your child’s academic and
behavior performance and their attitude in the classroom.
me know how John has performed in your class over the last two weeks.
there is to it! If you do not like the answer you receive, arrange a
meeting with your child and his teacher as soon as possible. By the
time you receive a report card, it may be too late. Much easier to be
proactive than to try and recover from a failing grade later in the
your child that participation in extracurricular activities – especially
in her freshman year – is key to becoming socially engaged in life
outside of the classroom. Participation in school athletics, the arts
or music programs, human service clubs or volunteer activities will be
as important to college acceptance as will a strong GPA. Don’t allow
your child to come home every day and live a virtual life online for ten
or twelve hours. It is no substitute for developing people skills – the
best predictor of future adjustment and personal success!
7. If you
become aware that your child is experimenting with alcohol, drugs, or
sexual behavior, here is where you will need your MOST valuable skill as
a parent: active listening!
sucked into the kneejerk reaction of too many parents to overreact, to
judge, to criticize, to blame, or name calling. Ask your child (maybe
the next day after YOUR AND HIS emotions have settled) to explain the
choice that he has made. Listen carefully to his reply, and remember
that , no, – not ALL teens engage in these behaviors. Reaffirm your
values and where the boundaries lie in your home in plain and simple
terms. Continue to dialogue and check for understanding over the coming
weeks. Reach out for professional support when you need it. No sense
going this alone. Many parents have been there before you. Do not let
these behaviors be the deal-breaker in your relationship. Much of this
is normal adolescent searching to establish an identity. You are
absolutely your child’s most influential teacher in this domain.
8. Get to
know who your child’s friends are. Even though it is a rite of
adolescent passage to seek out the opinions of peers over parents, there
is no rule which makes the two groups mutually exclusive. Be inviting
and accepting of your child’s friends until you get to know them. A
well-stocked refrigerator and a welcoming attitude will soon make your
home a regular gathering place.
difficult as this next suggestion may become during your child’s
adolescence, keep her involved in the spiritual and religious traditions
of your home if these have been an important part of her upbringing.
This will provide a familiar and constant landscape through the many
moral and ethical dilemmas that she will face in the next few years.
IMPORTANT - accept your child for who he/she is. With his unique
talents, and those areas in need of improvement, he is a work in
progress and has been listening to your words and watching your actions
as his first teacher in life for his whole life. Let go of what you
think he “should” be and enjoy who he is. Finally, accept your own
fallibility as a parent. We all make mistakes and we all know that
infant you brought into this world did not come with an instruction
manual. Learn from your mistakes, and strive to be the best parent that
you can. This is all any of us can do. Enjoy!
Pantaleno is the 2013 NASP School Psychologist of the Year.