I have a kid graduating high school this spring. My husband and I successfully kept another human alive from the moment of his birth to his 18th birthday and on to graduation! Woohoo!
Actually, I think we did a decent job if I do say so myself. We learned so much from our
guinea pig first born, but there are a few things, especially in the middle and high school years that I wish I had known. And, there are some things that we thought would be a good idea but weren’t really sure if they would work out at the time. These are the things I want to pass on to you. Things that could make your life a tiny bit easier depending on your situation and your own parenting journey. I realize that every kid and family is different, so take what I learned however you choose. For those of you with littles, I realize this feels light years away but take a moment to skim through here. You might just find it helpful.
- Encourage your kid to be active and involved with things that he or she loves. In high school we found that it is important for kids to have an activity to keep them organized, engaged and out of trouble. So far my two high schoolers’ grades are much better when they have one sport/activity per season. If your kid isn’t interested in school activities, a part time job is another route. Keeping busy to a certain degree, in our experience so far, means less free time to make questionable decisions and better time management with homework.
- Ask questions! I was fortunate enough to meet a few moms during the middle school years who had older kids out of high school. When my kid’s first homecoming came up, I knew where to order the corsage. What time is a reasonable curfew? What do you do about summer jobs? ACT testing, drivers ed, college applications, the list can go on and on. There is much to navigate in these years. It is huge to have someone to give you their advice and to have allies that can tell you about a party they may have heard about or a breakup that may have upset your kid. Let’s just say, we have each other’s backs.
- Teach your kid how to be respectful with electronics. Whether we want it or not, they are here to stay and very much part of our lives. Teaching your kid what is appropriate and what is not in the online community is an important skill for them to learn. This is not easy, many of our biggest arguments in my house have stemmed from electronic use. But I am determined to make sure my kids have a good, respectful sense of the online community and that they are never, ever to whip out their phone and stare at it when someone is speaking to them. Especially their grandma.
- Write it down. If you take nothing from what I am saying here, remember this: WRITE IT DOWN! When your kid starts middle school start a list of every activity, sport, volunteer hour and award that they receive along with the dates. Let me stress here that you should not get stressed out about making this list very long. Do this because you will have forgotten some of the things he or she did if and when your kid fills out school applications. My kid sent out three college applications in which we both had forgotten that he had earned his black belt in karate! Oops. Kind of a big thing to forget. If you have that list, you have one less thing to think about.
- Do NOT schedule your kid’s driver’s test on their 16th birthday! Just. Don’t. For that matter, encourage your kid to stay quiet about the date of their test. Big birthday celebration days should not be mixed with the stress and possible disappointment of a failed drivers test. Telling your friends that you failed because you told them all when you were testing is also hard. Enough said.
- If and when your kid decides they want to go to college, try to not stress out about it. Last year we had so many senior parents tell us it was their most stressful year ever. We found it to be the opposite. Maybe because we left it up to him because it is his life, not ours. Maybe because we did not worry if he would get into a particular school. If he had not gotten into the school of his dreams, my husband and I knew he’d fit in somewhere else. Maybe because we wanted to really enjoy and savor his last year under our roof. Yes, encourage your kids to follow their dreams, but don’t emotionally invest yourself to the point of stress on everyone’s part.
- Stay out of it. Once our kid got to high school we no longer engaged with coaches or teachers unless we were specifically invited. Yes, we attended parent teacher conferences and volunteered when needed but as long as grades stayed reasonable, he needed to figure it out. If he needed help, we helped. Once he hit high school we figured we had four years for him to learn to be more and more independent. Four years to try some things and succeed at some and fail at others. Things have come up over the years with our son’s coaches. We talked with him about it and then he approached the coach himself. With this experience, he has begun to learn how to navigate the world without us. As we all know, sometimes you earn and receive exactly what you deserve. Sometimes not so much. So… life.
- MOST IMPORTANT!!!!! Have fun with them! The older my kids get the more I realize that they are amazing human beings that I want to know and hang out with. The same kid who I carried around for nine months, changed his diapers, potty trained, sent him on the bus on his first day of kindergarten is now going into the world as an adult despite our parenting flaws and mistakes. I am amazed and thankful beyond words. What a privilege it has been.