Teenhood is a difficult stage to get through for both parents and their children. During this time, kids are experiencing big changes in their bodies, in their environments, and in the dynamics of their social groups. Parents of teens, on the other hand, have to reckon with the fact that their kids have grown up significantly but are not yet as mentally and as emotionally mature as adults. Naturally, some tensions are bound to arise between parents and their children, especially on issues pertaining to school.
If you’re a parent of a high schooler or a soon-to-be high school student, you may already know that your teen needs your love, support, and guidance more than ever. You can help them navigate this tricky juncture in their life by avoiding these five parenting mistakes. Awareness of these mistakes, as well as an active effort to counter or remedy them, will strengthen your relationship with your child and positively impact their studies and school life.
Not Being Aware of Generational Issues
Having been a high schooler once, you may feel as if you have an immediate vantage point over your child’s life and that you will completely understand what they are going through. However, your own high school experience may be drastically different from theirs. There are some issues that are quite unique to their current generation—for example growing up in an age when digital technologies are ubiquitous. Assuming that you can relate to them 100% and not acknowledging the differences in your life versus theirs can negatively affect your relationship.
The best way to avoid this mistake is to be humble about generational issues that you don’t understand all that well. You can research about them to know about how they might affect your child’s school life—or better yet, ask your child about them from a place of openness, curiosity, and respect. If you find out what they think about the issue and what stake they have in it, you’ll be better equipped to understand how you can help them.
Ignoring Issues That Come with the Transition from Primary School to Secondary School
Another common mistake is to assume that your child will transition from primary school to secondary school without any difficulty. In reality, this is something that you and your child may need to unpack in detail. They may be feeling extra self-conscious about their new status in school, as well as distressed about having to act more grown-up. They will definitely need your support during this phase of their school life.
Knowing that, be extra sensitive to your teen when they’re starting high school. Let them know that they can always voice out their concerns about relating to people differently or adjusting to a new school environment, for example, if they’re moving from a local school to a Singapore international high school in preparation for studying in an overseas university later in life. For good measure, you can read these tips on helping your child transition from primary to secondary school.
Being a Helicopter Parent
Both you and your child may be feeling a lot of pressure as they enter their teen years. That’s understandable, considering how competitive high school can be and how important their high school years will be in shaping their further education and career experiences. However, you must resist the urge to become what’s called a “helicopter parent,” or a parent who relentlessly involves themselves in their child’s academic or extracurricular activities. Helicopter parenting may actually do more harm than good, as it is often a breach into a teen’s autonomy and privacy.
Avoid this mistake by giving your teen enough breathing space to do their schoolwork and extracurricular activities by themselves. Instead of being a “backseat driver” in your child’s school life, ease yourself into the role of a mentor or a guide. Provide encouragement, let them develop mastery over their studies and extracurriculars, and—above all—tell them that it’s okay to make mistakes and to figure things out for themselves.
Pressuring Your Child to Live Up to Unrealistic Expectations
Yet another grave mistake to make as a parent is to hold your child to unrealistic expectations. They may feel pressured to become the perfect student, or to live out a vicarious dream of yours in their own school life.
But it’s not fair to expect perfection from a child, or to project your own desires on them when they are still figuring out their dreams for themselves. For example, if you wanted to become a doctor but weren’t able to do so, you shouldn’t expect your child to carry that torch for you, unless it’s also what they want. The best parenting approach is to take your child’s individual learning needs, preferences, and ambitions into account. You’ll be able to help them by choosing a suitable education program for them and encouraging them to develop their own unique strengths and talents.
Not Adjusting Your Support Style to Fit the Circumstances
Lastly, you may be willing to provide support to your teen, but it may not be tailored to their current situation. When showing support, good intentions aren’t the only thing that matter—your manner of articulating support does, too.
For example, some situations will call for you to talk less than you usually do and listen more to your child. In other instances, your child may need to hear verbalized encouragement from you to get them through a tough spot.
This may be difficult for a patient to intuit, and parents shouldn’t be expected to read the minds of their children. But doing things like paying attention to differences in your child’s behavior, and asking them how you can work through the problem together, is a good start. You may also want to read up on how parents can provide extra support for teens in stressful times, for example during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your child’s teenhood may feel like a particularly difficult test to your parenting skills, but the problems and issues that come with it aren’t insurmountable. Simply do your best and be hungry to improve your relationship with your teen child. Their high school years may be among the very best and the most memorable years of their lives because of what you are able to accomplish for them as their parent.