| Yes, You Can Survive Your Adolescentís Challenging Years and Still Support Success in School|
by Barbara Snyder M.A. Ed.
It is one of the most understated comments that parents can make when they say, "Adolescence and the middle school years are a challenging time." Oh, really. If you are viewing the period of time between 10 through 14 years old as just a time to get through, you need to read on.
Yes, it is a terribly difficult time in the development of youngsters, but it can be a productive time in terms of parent/child relationship and school success. It is always the tendency of parents to become less involved as children move up in the grade levels in their school careers. Big mistake. In fact, it is the very time to become more involved and make more of an impact on a youngsterís future than any other time.
With the many distractions and obstacles that present themselves as parents raise an adolescent, the key phrase is, "Öas parents raise an adolescent." It is trite and obvious to say that children donít raise themselves, but it is true. You know the old saying, "if left to their own devices, etc." Parents and families need to take advantage of their position and advance the influence they can have on children.
There are seven situations or circumstances to attend to, all being within the sphere of control if parents spend the time needed. The need is on-going, intense and sometimes frustrating. The secret is to have the stamina and perseverance to stay the course and to nurture and understand the following: 1) Recognize and acknowledge adolescence changes; 2) Practice the basics of being an effective parent; 3) Work hard on communication; 4) Encourage independence (with frequent monitoring); 5) Stay aware of friendships; 6) Oversee music, media, and movie choices; and 7) Stay involved in school and extracurricular activities.
1) Change is difficult. It is fairly normal for parents see their youngster all of sudden not motivated, rebellious and moody. During that adolescent stage from 10 to 14 years old, the many physical and emotional changes can cause youngsters to begin to bend to peer pressure and to display a rainbow of emotions. It is a time when parents need to be patient and aware of how much their child needs love and support as the child is, at the same time, pushing them away. There is no simple formula. Parents need to remember that these changes and the ways that a teen will develop comes from genetics, family support, friends, values, and other influences in society.
2) The practice of being an effective parent includes showing love, giving support, setting boundaries, being a good example, instilling responsibility, and demonstrating respect. Parents need to clarify and make their child understand that they will always love the child, but not love what they do sometimes. A parent needs to be there to support, praise and encourage. However, there must be limits and boundaries that are a part of the love and support. Parents must be good role models who set high standards for themselves and for their children. As children grow up they need to be given more and more responsibilities that are provided in a wide range of activities. Finally, one of the most important actions is that of a parents showing respect to their child, who will return that respect to them and others.
3) How can parents best communicate with their child? This is a tough area to attend to, but it is a must. It is imperative that parents know where their child is and what activity he or she is engaged in. If a child knows that an adult is watching, the risk of poor behavior is significantly diminished. It is a parentís job to find out what will get a child to be open and talkative. The child should do most of the talking, with the parent doing a lot of listening. Finding a place at the home that is relatively free from distraction is a plus because the parent needs to give his or her full attention to this very important event. Also important is that a parent not over-react even in very serious situations, but rather a parent should lead the child in problem solving the situation. Finally, make sure communication allows for a youngster to talk about the things that are meaningful. A child needs to be shown respect and kindness throughout the communication process.
4) Parents need to tread very carefully in developing an appropriate amount of freedom and independence. Children have to learn to do things for themselves and to become confident. Parents need to instill a sense of responsibility for accepting consequences for poor decision making. Adolescents need to have some choices, but they must accepted the outcomes of their choices. Parents can help their child achieve a balance of close connection and independence by setting boundaries, being specific with instructions, and giving some appropriate choices. These freedoms can be given gradually, increasing as the adolescent shows success in decision making. There is a difference between guiding and controlling. The youngsters can sense the difference and need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.
5) Friendships become so important to adolescents. Parents need to guide youngsters into good friendships. Peer pressure or an unhealthy friendship can affect grades, behavior, and attitude. It is not unusual for youngsters to form groups or cliques which may have a focal point such as sports. Parents have reason to worry about in the influence of friends and the opportunities for poor decision making. However, parents still need to remain as the number one influence in a childís life. Parents can and should provide the guidance about careers and moral values. If the parent/child bond can remain strong, the influence can have more impact. Parents need to get to know their childís friends and the parents of the friend. Friendships have to be monitored continually and closely.
6) So what about choices in music, movies and media? The "Three Mís" can have a tremendous influence on a child. They can shape attitudes and values, and they are everywhere. If the choices are good ones, then the programs and movies can inform and entertain. Adolescents need some guidance in what is good and what is bad. Research has pointed out time and again that violence in programs and movies increases aggressive behavior and makes shocking events or behavior seem commonplace. In addition, the number of hours of television watching needs to be monitored. Schoolwork needs to come first.
7) Parents need to be supportive of school and related school events by attending events and volunteering. Remember that most middle schools or junior high schools reflect a transitional stage from elementary to high school. The youngster will likely have several teachers and will move from class to class. It is a big change and can be stressful and overwhelming. Parents need to stay alert to which subjects are more difficult. At the first sign of a problem, the parents need to meet with the teacher. Working to together like a team is the best approach. To do that parents need to find out the expectations about behavior, academics and homework.
Parenting is not easy, and adolescents can be a handful. Parents can survive their childís difficult and challenging years and can even help the child thrive. Remember that what works for one child does not necessarily work for others, but the seven situations and circumstances are avenues toward reaching out to support and guide youngsters through an interesting period of their lives.
You can find the acclaimed series ďHelping Your Child LearnĒ at http://www.sbmag.org/Help_Your_Child_Learn
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About the Author
Barbara Snyder M.A. is a retired California Distinguished School Principal and Coordinator For Human Resources. She has a masterís degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She holds elementary education, secondary, community college, and administrative credentials. She is currently the publisher of http://EducationResourcesNetwork.com, and Strictly Business Magazine, http://www.sbmag.org and Student Teacher Supervisor at Chapman University.
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