When our kids were in elementary school it was obvious what we had to do to get them ready for the new school year. Registration. Check. Meet the teacher night. Check. School supply shopping. Check. Pictures on the first day. Check. You know the drill! If you’re like me, by the time your kids reached middle school you had the whole routine down to a science.
Then they hit junior high. And high school. And things changed. Those same kids that needed us to help them get back to school when they were little overnight became, dare I say, INDEPENDENT.
It’s at this point that parents like us have a decision to make. How are we going to approach our teen’s new found independence? In my experience, parents typically choose one of three paths to follow as our teens mature to young adults.
With the first we allow our kids all the independence they want. Letting them make their own decisions and essentially letting them spread their wings and fly. While we continue to support them financially and offer guidance when asked, we begin treating them much more like adults.
Parents along the second path stay heavily involved in all aspects of their teen’s life and try to manage all of their decisions despite their teen’s likely resistance.
And the third? It’s the path in the middle. Somewhere between allowing your teen full independence and you keeping total control. With this path, you slowly give up your control as your teen moves towards their eventual independence.
Personally and professionally, I like the path in the middle. Teenagers are still children who need nurturing and guidance from their parents. But they are also at a time in their development where they need to express their individuality and learn to make decisions on their own.As they return to school, try some of these tips to foster your teen’s independence and continue a healthy level of parental involvement:
- Registration. Most high schools have a day in the summer to pick up schedules, get parking permits, and receive locker assignments. Ask your teen if they want to go with friends or if they want you to accompany them. If they want to go without you, let them! Of course make sure they have any money or information they need to take with them and then ask questions about what they did when they get home. But allow them the chance to participate independently if that’s what they prefer.
- Meet the teacher night. Events like these still happen in high school and are just as important for parents to attend as they were when our kids were in elementary school. My kids know that my presence at meet the teacher night is non-negotiable. In junior high and high school these events are designed specifically for parents to learn about what’s going on with their teen’s education. It serves as a springboard for parent-teen conversations about classes and activities throughout the school year.
- School supplies. This is a perfect time to let your teen experience shopping from a list with a budget. Have them make a list of what they need, give them a certain amount of money to make their purchases, and send them on their way. When they get back talk with them about the process, including what they liked and didn’t like. Now for big purchases, like graphing calculators, I’d recommend getting a little more involved. Do some research with your teen and find a calculator that meets their needs for school and for college entrance exams. Then teach them about price comparison shopping, as you can find items like these for a wide variety of prices in stores, online, or even secondhand.
What tips do you have for helping your teen get back to school more independently while still staying involved? I’d love to hear from you! Oh, and just in case you’re curious, those first day of school pictures…also non-negotiable with this mom.