Remember those parent-teacher evenings in elementary school when you sat in a teensy-weensy chair at a teensy-weensy table talking about your little one? Only a few years have elapsed, but everything's changed. No more teensy. Now we're talking teens.
Just how important are conferences at school now that your child is a budding adult? Even if he or she perceives parental involvement as parental interference, showing up at school has never been more important. Yet many high schools report low turnouts on Parents' Night. "It's a missed opportunity," says one veteran teacher. "Raising teenagers is tricky and parents and teachers need to put their heads together."
Got the Picture? It's Not Square to be There.
- Forging a relationship with the adults at your child's school can stand you in good stead throughout the ups and downs of adolescence. High school teachers see hundreds of teenagers day in and day out -- why not take advantage of their experience and insights?
- "When I ask my teenage son questions about school, all I get are monosyllabic grunts," says one father. "Parents' Night is one of the few ways I can keep track of what's happening. Come to think of it, at this stage in Todd's life, his teachers see more of him than I do."
- No matter how well we think we know our children, no parent has the whole picture. Teachers are often the first to detect health problems such as eating disorders, depression, or drug use. They know who's hanging out with whom. It's a whole new radar screen.
- You're the link to a successful school year. "Kids this age can be hard to reach, so talking to parents can really make a difference," says one coach. "I get much more out of students when I know what's going on at home, what the issues are, when to lean on 'em and when to back off."
- Meeting other parents can be enlightening -- and fun. Does your teen complain that you're the only ogre who imposes a curfew? Limits TV on weeknights? Refuses to turn over the car keys at the drop of a hat? Swapping stories and strategies with other families can be a refreshing reality check.