This is the final blog entry in my series on "back to school." It doesn't matter if you are a first time parent sending your first child off to kindergarten or the parent of four, sending your last child off to high school. The bond and love you have for a child can be truly challenged when you send them off to the alternative environment known as school. Luckily for most of us, our kids will thrive in school, making friends, receiving a wonderful education in an environment that is nurturing and safe. They will evolve both academically and socially and maybe even spiritually as they navigate through their 12 years of education. You will have challenging moments when they fail a class, or miss making the cut on a team or have a close friend move away. You will comfort them when they miss an achievement and you will be their most supportive cheerleader when they hit a major academic or performance milestone. A long the way you will probably face some unknown turf as you try to help your child with a situation that was foreign to your own personal school experience.
You may also find that your different children have very different experiences in school, so you too may be challenged to change your own responses to even familiar situations. The key is to make sure your child knows that you are there for them and to always make sure they can bring you even the worst possible circumstances. If you don't like their new friends or how they are showing their new found independence, then you need to balance your personal judgments with parenting wisdom. You also have to be prepared to make mistakes and to learn from them - there is no perfect parenting. You also have to take a strong position when their safety is at risk. The rule of actions have consequences will be invoked repeatedly in high school.
The true challenge can come if your child has issues like learning difficulties, is seriously overweight, or has a borderline personality - but even regular kids encounter difficult moments. You can minimize some of these experiences by helping your child to realize their uniqueness and their value. Sometimes all they want you to do is listen -not solve. It can be really challenging for the mom or dad who wants to make everything right, to simply hand hold and allow them to vent their frustration. What you don't want to do is miss signs that your child is beginning to suffer mentally or physically from an ongoing issue that has not resolved. Kids who are repeatedly humiliated or picked on need help with coping skills and they may need a parent and school facilitated intervention. A child who appears to be developing physical signs of stress or anxiety may need some professional help. A child unable to manage all of their classes and the homework and tests may need a different school opportunity. You can talk your child's teacher or to the school guidance counselor to get a sense of their perceptions about the situation. Then you need to decide if the situation is serious enough to involve a professional and/or to make a change.
There are certain homes where kids seem to gravitate and hang out, and quite often those parents seem to have as good a sense of what's happening in their teen's world. If your teen is involved in a sports team or academic group, volunteering to help can allow you better access to what's going on. Carving out special time with your teen just to grab a snack, grab a walk or drive can mean precious time to find out what's really going on. Most of us will survive the school experience. Just remember to take it one school day at a time!!
Published On: September 28, 2009