By Barb Skelly, MS.ED, LPC
Q: Our daughter has just started high school and we are feeling overwhelmed by the many issues we are confronted with. It seems there are so many things to start thinking about and planning for.
We are also trying to decide on appropriate activities for her outside of school. Where do we begin in helping her make choices for her future and how do we help her make good decisions?
A: High school can be one of the most fun times in a young person’s life and also one of the most challenging. Young people naturally begin seeking more independence, solitude and autonomy in decision making. It is very difficult for parents to watch the child they once did everything with start choosing time with friends as opposed to family. The youngster who once eagerly sought parental companionship and opinions now turns to friends first for advice and camaraderie. Teens often seek time alone; they have many things to think about, high school is a time of great discovery. Parents become exasperated when their questions are met with one word answers, yet they see their high school students spend hours talking with friends on the phone. Communication between parent and child becomes paramount at a time when the teen seems to be cutting off communication with parents. Now is the time for parents to assess how to keep the lines of communication open. Many families decide that dinner together is a must. Even if it isn’t possible every night, make sure that it happens several times a week. Ask your child to talk about classes, homework, school activities. Be an informed parent; attend back to school night, read the school newspaper, the principal’s blog and the daily announcements. This will give you topics of discussion. Learn how to access teachers’ web sites and don’t hesitate to contact a teacher or counselor if you have concern or questions.. If your child’s school posts grades on line, check them often. Ask about assignments, offer help if your child seems to be struggling with a class. Ask for your child’s input when it comes to establishing curfews, rules for dating, going out with friends, attending dances, transportation to different events. Parents should have discussed these topics between themselves and arrived at what options they are willing to negotiate with their teen and what rules are non-negotiable at the moment. Open negotiations as your teen matures and shows she is making responsible decisions. Expect that disagreements may arise and show your teen that you are willing to listen and discuss. Talk with the parents of your daughter’s friends; make decisions as a group on a willingness to work together when teens are preparing for activities such as dances, homecoming, proms, etc. Agree as a group on rules for driving, curfew, parties, etc Model good decision making, as you are your child’s most important guide on how to become a responsible adult.
As your child begins high school classes, she will have exposure to many different areas of study. These courses will help her start thinking about a future career. High schools offer many looks at career options and choices for after high school. Attend college and financial aid nights. Don’t hesitate to contact your daughter’s counselor and start asking questions how to begin the career, military or college application process. Discuss issues such as college visits, entrance exams and career exploration.
Barbara Skelly, MS.Ed, LPC, is the chair of the counseling department at Grosse Pointe North High School. She can be reached at 313 432 3221.