Tips for parents navigating high school

It’s that time of year again. Parents sending their little ones off to school.

For the most part, parents of elementary kids are often very involved in their child’s education. But something happens when those kids  hit junior high. Perhaps in an effort to help children grow up, parents become less involved. Often the only time a parent is seen at the junior high is if their child is misbehaving. By the time a child reaches high school, parental involvement is often relegated to parent-teacher conferences, if that.

My husband has taught high school for 27 years. I asked him what sets apart his best students from the rest:

Parents, he said. The more involved the parents are in their child’s education the better the student.

Here’s his recommendations for a successful school year for all you parents of older students:

- Communicate with your student’s teachers on a regular basis. Drop by and visit with the teacher. Email. Or call. It’s okay to say that you are just checking in, want to make sure your student is doing okay. Is there anything you can do to help that teacher?

- Unplug at home. Provide your student with a set time to be totally offline. No phones. No TV. No computer, unless it’s for school purposes. You should provide enough supervision so that you know your student isn’t whiling away the homework hours on Facebook or Twitter.

- Read yourself. The best students are knowledgeable about the wide world. They can discuss politics or religion, They are interested in the conditions of others. They love learning for the sake of learning. High school students love to have in-depth discussions. The more aware and involved you are as a parent, the more curious your student will be.

- Don’t focus your energy on your student’s grades. The question shouldn’t be “Are you getting an A?” The question ought to be “What are you learning? What did you learn today?”

- Expect the best from your student. Set a standard of excelling in your own life, and let your students know that you expect the same from them. Be the best person you can be and they will likely model that.

- Provide supervision. This is the one area where parents repeatedly fail. There is this sense that a lot of parents give up on their students. This is the biggest mistake parents make, a lack of oversight and supervision. Your student is not an adult. He/She needs — and I’d argue wants – supervision. This is true even for juniors and seniors in high school, who are often struggling with finding their footing into adulthood.

- The success of a child in school isn’t based upon whether they are coming from a two-parent or one-parent home. Some of the worst students have come out of two-parent homes. One of Tim’s best students was a Hispanic girl, raised solely by her father, who earned a scholarship  to Princeton.

- But this is an area where grandparents, friends, or volunteers can help. If you see a child in your neighborhood who is lacking in parental oversight, be a friend to that child. Share a good book with them. Stop and talk to them. Ask them about school. Talk to them about college. Go to their sports events, if they are involved in sports, or drama productions, or band recitals, etc. Take a personal interest in them. Invite them to church, or the theater or an art show. Expose them to a world beyond the one online.

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://katdish.net katdish

    That last bit of advice is golden. I’ve seen many kids with less than ideal home lives blossom because other adults (in my personal experience a youth and senior pastor) take an interest in supporting them. They went to the games, concerts, etc. Community is so important in almost all aspects of life.

    I would also add that if your child is involved in social media, you have access (meaning you know their passwords & can access their accounts). My son is on Facebook and I regularly check his status. I’ve never seen him post anything inappropriate, but I have deleted status updates from other friends. If their parents even know they’re on Facebook, they certainly aren’t checking on them there.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      The stories I could tell you about Facebook and kids. I am sure that far too many parents are too busy with their own social media lives to check their children.Good for you for keeping tabs on the boy’s online activity.

  • http://koinepdx1.blogspot.com AF Roger

    Amen to all. Set some standards, reasonable ones but also firm ones. One of the biggest difficulties to parenting our daughter through these years came not from her (she was tough enough) but indirectly from the parents of her best friends. Many either had very mushy standards or seemed to practice appeasement by credit card.

    About 15 years ago, we went to hear my college fraternity brother’s wife, Dr. Mary Pipher, talk to a group of people about adolescent girls. Oh, how I wished I’d discovered Dr. Pipher’s work about three years earlier! She’s so humble and practical. I felt like an oddball at the event. Out of a crowd of easily 400+, there weren’t 10 men in the room. I wondered, “Where are the fathers of the girls now putting all these mothers through the wringer? Would any more be here if Dr. Mary’s husband Jim had written the books and was here talking about adolescent boys?”

  • John in PDX

    I have trouble with the reading portion. My son is in the National Honor Society. He is a senior in high school.

    I read as much as I can. It doesn’t seem to rub off. I have read every Hemmingway book + many more that he chose for AP english reading during the summer. He hasn’t started yet.

    Granted – we have been working on his Eagle Scout project but is this a bad excuse or what?

    I talked with all of his AP buddies and none of them have started yet either.

    The beatings will stop when moral improves.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      John: Two of our four kids didn’t take to reading for awhile. Our youngest daughter didn’t take to reading until she came across memoir, then she couldn’t get enough. Now she reads fiction, memoir, whatever interests us. Our son still doesn’t like to read but his job requires that he be up-to-snuff on history so for work he reads a lot of history.
      I think the thing is to expose them to reading by doing it yourself and by discussing all the many things you come across in reading. I bet 10 years from now, you’ll have a reader on your hands.

      • John in PDX

        It’s not that he doesn’t read – all of the AP guys think they don’t have to do their summer homework for fall until the last day of summer vacation.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          Well that’s just a guy thing. :)


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