Involved Parenting of Your High School Student
By Ursula Richards Scheele, M.Ed.
Now that your teenager can drive, maybe has a job, is involved various extra-curricular activities, and is on her way to graduation and adulthood, you may be thinking to yourself, "So far, so good." Also, you may be asking yourself if this is the time when your role as a parent is diminished. Absolutely not. The job of parenting a high school student is as important as it has been since potty training and puberty. While my children are under the age of six, as a high school counselor I have been through many trials and tribulations with parents and their teens, and have learned how challenging it is to parent through these years. High school students have to make so many important decisions including academic planning for high school and beyond; as well as the many daily decisions they make which can significantly impact their lives positively or negatively. This is a pivotal time when they still really need your time, attention, and guidance (yet they won't necessarily tell you or show you this).
In an effort to stay informed about with what is going on in your high-schooler's academic life, parent-teacher conferences are an excellent way to connect with your child's teachers. You can ask questions about how your teen is doing in school, and inform teachers of circumstances of which they should be aware in order to best help your child (i.e., family change, illness, mental health issues, etc.). You can find out what your child is working on so you can talk with him about it at home. Generally speaking, teachers genuinely like and care about kids, and they want your child to do well, so to try to be open-minded about the teacher's input. Conferences are also a time to check in with your child's counselor with whom you can discuss academic planning, career exploration, and social/personal issues. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the resources available through your child's school counseling department and check out your school district's web site where you'll find a wealth of pertinent information.
An often overlooked resource for parents of teens is your local Community Education program. You might be surprised by the breadth of topics that are covered throughout the year, which include chemical health issues, discipline, and limit setting. But some classes are lighter and may be a fun way to connect with your teen. Your child may actually be flattered that you want to take a class with him.
But then again, your child may balk at the idea of "hanging out" with mom or dad. Remind her, however, that these might be some of the last years that you will be living in the same house where you have the luxuries of proximity and time. Try to put the "cool factor" aside, and be honest with your child about wanting to spend one-on-one time with him. And there are lots of fun ways to do this - read the same book and talk about it over coffee; go shopping (if you can stand it), and/or out for dinner; or see a movie or a play. It doesn't have to be an extravagant outing, just focus on what you are really giving - your time, attention, and most importantly, love.
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