Louise Hajjar Diamond
back to your preteen and early teen years for a moment. Recall the feeling
of longing to be accepted by your peers and to be unique while still
fitting in the group. Remember wanting your parentsĦ support and approval
yet expecting them to know instinctively when to back off. Remember
falling in love for the first time with a classmate who you were too
nervous to speak to. Speaking for myself, my friends and I spent hours
on the phone reviewing and interpreting the events of the day. Boys
our age were less talkative, but equally affected by their feelings
and their place in the world.
Now youĦre the parent and youĦre not new at this;
you have more than a decade of experience. But there are moments youĦre
as confused as your preteen in dealing with her or his emotions and
behaviors. What are you to do when the child you knew just one year
earlier is acting so differently now? How can we ensure that our young
teens will always tell us when something is wrong instead of turning
a middle school guidance counselor, I talk to parents each day who are
seeking ways to know their children better and guide them appropriately.
Parents fear they will miss something their children are experiencing
and lose them to negative influences.
a counselor and parent, I am constantly exploring reasons why some kids
make it through adolescence with more emotional scars than others. The
factor with the most impact seems to be the unconditional love and consistent
support from at least one parent or caretaker. Another crucial factor
is the adolescentĦs ability to like himself or herself.
learn from the very beginning of life to imitate their parents. This
includes everything from learning language to developing values. Modeling
appropriate behavior is probably ninety percent of parenting. Parents
who value people, the law, the importance of education, and honesty
will most likely have children who value these things. Parent example
is one of the best teaching tools we have to offer our kids. Adolescents
who feel good about themselves and their home life will be far less
likely to seek belonging in gangs or other destructive peer situations.
we must accept the fact that the preteen and early teen years are hard
for kids, parents, and educators. Remember what these years were like
for you while understanding your child may be going through different
or additional challenges. These years are hard even the best family
environment. Consider that boys and girls may have needs of their own
and that each of your children is unique. Special challenges occur when
there is a significant change in the home during adolescence.
in school is an expectation that most parents value for their children.
However, it is important to remember that the transition from elementary
to middle school can be a hard one for most kids. The stress associated
with this transition can show itself in a variety of ways. Many students
who had acceptable grades throughout elementary school experience a
drop in grades once they reach sixth and seventh grade. Parents may
also find that comments middle school teachers make in conferences donĦt
seem to resemble their elementary school child. Adolescents seem less
likely to want to please adults or to be praised by them in the company
of their peers. Far from serving as a motivator, middle school teachers
find that students may rebel after receiving a compliment in front of
the entire class. A seventh grader is more likely to respond positively
to your feedback when it is given one on one. A thirteen-year-old still
values the opinions of parents and teachers but it will mean a lot more
to him if he respects the adult that offers the opinion.
conferences are crucial during the middle years. The most successful
meetings are when the adolescent is a participant. Teachers and school
counselors can provide information to parents about their child and
they have a frame of reference.
to your kids. Listen without interrupting. Listen without judgement.
Try to understand their point of view (even if you donĦt agree with
it). Validate their feelings. Let them know itĦs all right to be confused
or angry. Discuss feelings of angry without judgement--guide them in
finding appropriate outlets to release anger such as exercise, talking,
or writing in a journal. Let them know your expectations of behavior.
Set realistic rules and consequences to live such a bedtimes and curfews.
DonĦt threatened or promise something that is out of your control such
as the actions of other adults in the childĦs life.
your kids. Most eleven to fifteen years olds are a lot of fun to talk
to individually. They can reason and understand humor. They see the
world egocentrically. Adolescents may need to be guided and reminded
to see the points of views of others. Give encouragement and support
healthy choices and interests. Know how they spend their time when youĦre
not with you. Talk to them about what music, sports, and hobbies they
like. Talk to your kids about their friends without being too critical.
Make sure the parties they attend are appropriately chaperoned. Let
your kids know the things you donĦt approve of doing such as smoking,
drinking, having sex, violence, and taking drugs. DonĦt assume that
they understand the consequences of these things at their age. Encourage
them to come to you even if they make a mistake.
is a balancing act from the very beginning. By providing a good example,
daily communication, and really knowing your kids as individuals can
make the difference between your childrenĦs success and happiness during
these challenging years. It may be encouraging to know that parents
do remain the biggest influence in their kidsĦ lives, even through the
teen years. Give them unconditional love and guidance and enjoy them.
(Louise Hajjar Diamond has eleven
years of experience as a guidance counselor. She is a writer and mother