I have something to say about teenage social life: it just plain sucks. There’s nothing more difficult and hard to navigate when you come out of the single digit years on this earth. You remember what it’s like, don’t you? Just when you’re starting to feel confident and comfortable with how you manage things you get enormous feet that don’t match your body, a face full of zits and blemishes, and you start to secrete bodily smells that you didn’t know you possessed. Summed up, it’s pretty horrible. The good news is that you eventually turn into an adult (not without the occasional mishap of a huge zit, of course), and the bad news is that, for parents, you have children that turn into teenagers. Somehow, as a mom, I’ve gone through puberty twice: once on my own and again when my children experienced it. You can immediately remember what it feels like to be pubescent. That is fairly horrible, too.
I am often asked, in my role as a public school administrator, to help guide students and their families through these tricky waters. When I do, though, I am cognizant of how frustrating it can be on the part of the student and their parents. After several years of doing this I need to remind myself that sometimes parents don’t remember that administrators are there to help. Because, sometimes I am not asked, but parents and students let me know this is hard for them by the frustrations I hear from them in different ways. In fact, I will take it one step further and admit that sometimes I don’t even know a child is struggling because they’re not being difficult or vocal about their needs so I (falsely) assume that everything is A-okay. That is, until their parents step in and come to me with worries:
My kid is getting lost at school and is directionless.
My son hates school and has no friends.
My daughter comes home in tears every night.
These are some of the phrases I hear on a fairly regular basis. That’s when I know it’s time to step in and do some serious interventions, but it’s smarter to be on the front end of this than the reactionary end of fixing a problem after it pops up at school. Here is a short guide to what I’ve learned about being an educator and a parent of teens and how to find your way out of the minefield of surviving their social lives.
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If the first day of school has already passed, don’t fret. You can still ask for help and support for your child. Teenagers are a different beast altogether, and I happen to love working with them. They’re complex and contradictory and sometimes make absolutely no sense at all. We’re really all in this together so reach out to educators and get their perspectives, too. Teachers have a unique view of the things that go on in school and should be receptive since we all want students to be their best. Hopefully, this guide will help you survive the teen years. Because it’s really frowned upon to eat your young.
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