This post is by Tara Paterson, Tara has been building bridges with moms and families for many years and launched her non- profit concept- the Just For Mom foundation. The Foundation has been involved with projects that involved a grassroots effort to support the Reading Rainbow; the creation of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Awards®; and is the recipient of a portion of the proceeds from the Chicken Soup series – Chicken Soup for the Mother and Sons Soul. www.ParentingIntuitives.com
My son started middle school this past week and wow, what a transformation has already begun to take place. Friends with older children informed us of the changes we would see, but I had no idea they would happen so quickly. The first few days all we heard about from our son was every new girl he met and how he liked each one of them. By the weekend, he asked me where his jeans were.
“Jeans” I said, “you haven’t worn jeans in two years and the one’s I bought you last year are way too short!”
“I like jeans now,” he said.
Oh boy, did I want to string him up by his toes. On the 4th day, he lost his lunch box; I had to remind him numerous times to bring me the important papers I needed to sign; and breakfast is now eaten in a record 10 minutes so he can get to the bus stop to play football with the other kids in the neighborhood. I relented and gave him a cell phone so I can keep tabs on his busy schedule. I have to say, I resisted for some time, but have come to believe they are virtually born with technology ingrained in their little bodies however, this is where it gets tricky and where we as parents need to stick together.
I decided the best way to keep myself informed about his new life, was to become involved in the PTO. Rumors in our area have circled warning that parents quickly lose touch with their kids once they enter middle school. With a student body of over 1200 kids (in two grades only) I can understand how this began, because up until last year it doesn’t appear there was an active parent- teacher network of communication. How then does one remain in the loop with their rising teen? Get involved.
We know from research that the tween years are fast becoming the most critical years in our child’s life and the time most parents take their hands off of the wheel. What they didn’t learn in elementary school from the kids with older siblings, they are now going to be educated about on the bus, in the halls or at lunch.
At our first PTO officer meeting, we deduced it’s not surprising to see more parents in the classrooms and hallways of the elementary schools than students, but by 6th grade parents are rarely seen in the hallways unless they have been summoned by the administration for some inappropriate deed done by their child. Why is this? Do most parents assume other parents will pick up the slack to meet the needs of their child too? I don’t mean to be harsh, but this is the most critical time in our child’s journey to their teen years and the time when they begin to feel the pressure of their friends, the media and pop culture. If parents aren’t aware or informed about what’s going on in their child’s daily life at school, they most likely won’t know what’s going on anywhere else either.
So how can you stay informed and connected with your child?
Get involved. Often times there can be misunderstandings about the purpose of PTA’s and PTO’s in that they are mainly comprised of clicks and parents who want to socialize. Like all things, this can be true of some, but believe it or not your child knows you care when you are willing to make a commitment to keeping yourself educated about what they are doing at school.
Show up. Make yourself available to chaperon a dance or attend a parent- student lunch. At our school parents are invited to bring pizza to school for their child’s lunch any day of the week and the kids love it! They may make faces and tell you they don’t want you there, but when you show up, they know you care and they feel important.
Tune in. When your child wants to interact with you about ANYTHING, pay attention and listen to what they have to say. My son loves to tell me every single detail about a story he heard at school or something he watched on T.V. and sometimes it is so dreadfully boring or hard to stay tuned in, but ultimately I want him to know I care and it’s important that I avoid shutting him down.
Educate yourself. Take time to learn about the issues that are impacting our impressionable children. With the internet and the many other resources available to parents, there is a need now more than ever to stay informed about what kids are doing and the types of things they are exposed to. Take action and become an advocate for your child and the children they spend their time with. Visit resources such as this wonderful one here at Drug Free America. Knowledge is power and if we aren’t knowledgeable about the things our kids are doing, how can we expect to maintain our power (and I am not referring to control).
In the end, we are all in this together!
©2008 by Tara Paterson, ACPITM Trainer and Certified Coach for Parents of Intuitives, All Rights Reserved, (co-author Parenting Intuitive Children, New Page Books, spring ’09)