After an evening presentation to a group of Grade 11 parents last week during which we laid out the roadmap for current 11th graders as they navigate the IB, the college search, the essays, the Internal Assessments, the Mock exams, the college applications, the SAT prep, the SAT exams, the decisions, the deadlines, the co-curricular options, the need for balance, the need to take responsibility, the need to stay close as a family, and the need to breathe…..parents were asked to offer a word or phrase to capture how they (the parents) felt at that moment.
“It’s confusing”, said one parent.
These 16 year olds who will turn 17 as Grade 11 students are setting out on an incredibly intense course of activity over the coming months. They join thousands of other young people at this impressionable age in taking charge of the list above. This week they start that process with the PSAT exam and their first quarter progress report for Grade 11. This is a first glance at how many of them are achieving in the IB Diploma Program. The fun begins. Parents must find ways to support and bolster their child during these challenging times. Kids need parental support. Being informed of the challenges and the roadmap that lies ahead for kids is really important for parents. The stress, anxiety, and pressure is very real and must be managed. Parents are critical to the management of the challenges.
Apart from the intensity of school responsibilities, most Grade 11 students are begging for more freedom from their parents. Extended curfews, more freedom to roam on Friday evenings, greater privileges are requested. Parents must navigate these difficult and challenging parental decisions. Its’ not easy, in fact, it’s confusing. Most parents are often in some form of negotiation with their kids. It is part of parenting and part of navigating the teenage years. It’s important.
When this parent used the word confusing, however, I read into his response another source of confusion. It’s confusing parenting 16 year olds. It’s confusing parenting a 16 year old child for the first time. They are growing up, they are moody, they are confused, they are searching and seeking and wanting to find themselves. They are breaking away one minute and don’t want anything to do with you while ten minutes later all is forgotten. It’s confusing.
The fact is, that parenting is a huge challenge. Teachers must keep this in mind. Our communication to parents must be clear and we should not fuel the confusion that parents feel. While teachers deserve the support from parents, teachers must appreciate the challenge of parenting. I have little patience when I hear teachers make assumptions about parents. It just isn’t right. The complexities of parenting blended with the challenges of adolescent 16 and 17 year olds, mixed with an 18 month academically challenging roadmap lined with multiple hurdles and responsibilities is enough to raise even the calmest parent’s level of anxiety!!
It’s essential for parents to communicate when they have concerns, pose questions when they are confused, and clarify their resources for ongoing support. The journey through the final two years of high school requires information, planning, and attention. The journey can be one of exciting conversations, bonding moments, and shared experiences. Confusion is part of the challenge! And, of course, where there is confusion there are multiple opportunities for learning and growing. This is the true magic of this period of time.
How are you, as a teacher or leader helping support parents to ensure they have the information and tools to navigate the challenges of the final two years of high school?