It’s no secret that parenting is hard! We try to get it right, but sometimes we don’t. Luckily, we aren’t alone!
Previously, we looked at the first part of the Top 10 Mistakes Made by Parents of Middle School Students. Here are numbers 1-5, rounding out the list.
5. Believing your child when they say they don’t have homework
While this might be true, most middle school students I know almost always have homework. There is always a celebration in my house when my son does not have homework, which has happened maybe three times this year. Many times my son will have homework in multiple subjects.
If you are struggling to find out if your son/daughter has homework, you have a few options: looking at your child’s grades online; contacting your child’s counselor and asking for help; communicating regularly with teachers; and if all else fails, contacting your child’s principal for help.
4. Not having “the talk” with them
Folks, if you haven’t given your child “the talk” by the time they walk through the doors of middle school, they will be getting it from their friends.
I believe it is important that parents have the chance to give “the talk” to their child before they hear who knows what at school. While it is uncomfortable to discuss sex with your child at any time, if he/she is in middle school, don’t wait. Anytime you mix pubescent 13- and 14-year-old teens with innocent 11-year-old children, the younger students get a whole new education.
As hard as you have worked to keep your child in a bubble, think of it this way; wouldn’t you rather your son or daughter hear it from you than from some smelly 14-year-old boy in the bathroom at school? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
3. Hiding things from your child or not giving them the full truth
When students hit middle school, they are finally ready for the truth. They know the difference between right and wrong and they are savvy enough to know when you are lying or leaving out key information. It’s time to include them in decisions that affect them.
When you don’t offer the full truth to your child, they can feel it. They think you are lying. What’s worse is that you have indicated to your child that lying, or not offering the full truth is OK. If you want the full truth from your teen, be prepared to offer it back to them.
2. Engaging in teenage drama
This is true, especially when it happens over social media. Some parents not only get involved in the drama, they name-call their children’s friends and enemies in public forums, such as Facebook and Instagram. This is wrong for many reasons: it sets a bad example for your child; it opens up parents to being name called back by kids and other adults; it can only get your child in more trouble at school; and it runs the risk of being illegal. I have seen parents file police reports based on what is said on social media.
There is a fine line between being aware of what is going on in your child’s life and being involved in it. I know it’s not easy to watch, sometimes. And sometimes you just want to take control. But the truth is offering your child advice is the best you can do.
If a problem your teen has with another teen (or adult) crosses the fine line of drama and into inappropriate or worse, it’s time to get involved. But that doesn’t mean saying things back. It means contacting authorities to get help. This might be school officials or even police.
It is fine to protect your child, but it is not OK to go on the attack. (If the drama is over technology, you should also consider blocking other people, deleting apps, closing accounts and rethinking privacy settings. It is still OK to be in control.)
1. Not being involved in your child’s life
The BIGGEST MISTAKE parents make when their child enters middle school is stepping back and being less involved. It is true that your child might not want you around. There aren’t homeroom parents. There are fewer opportunities to volunteer. But stepping back and not knowing what is going on in your child’s life is the absolute wrong move to make.
Find a way to stay involved. Even if that is talking to your child five minutes a day about his/her day, it is important to stay connected. Don’t listen when your child tells you not to volunteer at school. Do it anyway. Ignore your child when he/she says that you don’t need to know his/her friends or parents of his/her friends. Meet them anyway.
Your teen might act like he/she doesn’t want you or need you around, but they do, more than ever before. Your middle school student is figuring out who they are and your guidance in this area is paramount. Your child’s brain and body are growing at rates not seen since he/she was a baby. As much as they say they want freedom, they really want and need boundaries. They need you.
There are so many mistakes we make as parents. It just happens. However, if you focus on staying involved in your child’s life, without hovering over them, it will help minimize the mistakes.
You are still the most important person in your child’s life. Don’t forget that. And when you feel overwhelmed and like you are a failure, remember that you aren’t. You are a human who is doing his/her best to raise a child. And look for others around you to remind you of this, because we are in this together.
Michelle Sutherlin is a NewsOK contributor and a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. For more articles about parents and middle school, check out her blog.
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