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Parenting a Middle Schooler: How to Stay Involved (page 2)

Parenting a Middle Schooler: How to Stay Involved

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Updated on Dec 7, 2009

Parents may have learned a subject differently, especially in math and they may end up trying to teach their kids the way they learned. “Parents are not in the classroom hearing how the subject matter is taught, their help may not be consistent with the teachers’ instruction,” Hill added. “Such differences may result in increased confusion for the teen.”

Students also might view their parents’ help as overbearing and micromanaging, “which can undermine students sense of autonomy and responsibility around homework completion.” 

Beth Lorenz, a middle school math teacher in Cedar Park, Texas, agrees that helping too much with homework can actually hinder students’ achievement. “I’ve seen some cases where mom and dad have done most of the homework and the kids just sit there and observe,” said Lorenz. “And when it comes time for the tests, the kids fail because they didn’t get the practice they needed.”

Lorenz notes it’s often these same parents who are constantly calling and emailing wondering why their child isn’t performing well in school. “A certain amount of following up with the teacher is important,” she added. “But parents need to let their kids take ownership for the problem. They need to step back and the students need to step up.”

Parents do have an influential role when it comes to homework by providing structure and the appropriate environment. Hill said parents can make sure that their adolescents understand their expectations about the completion of homework, make sure that teens have a set time to complete their homework, and that they have a designated space that is organized, well lit, and has the needed supplies.

As students adjust to middle school, it’s also a learning curve for parents, as they have to navigate an entirely different system, a larger campus and more teachers. Parents find they need to refocus their efforts and determine how best they can have an impact.

Opportunities to volunteer in middle school do exist, but differ from the hands-on approach in elementary school to more of a behind the scenes or guiding role. Parents can help out at PTA fundraising events, working in the library, chaperoning and helping with extracurricular activities. “It’s still important that middle school kids see that their parents are part of the community and their school,” added Lorenz.

Another vital role for parents involves ongoing conversations about the importance of education and the value of academic performance. But getting kids to talk about what is going in school can be an ongoing challenge for any parent. Amy Leykam, a middle school psychologist in Palo Alto, said that often parents find it difficult to know how their middle school kids are doing, as they don’t share as much as they did in elementary school. “Kids will say everything is fine but when the report card comes out, it tells a different story,” she added.

She said that parents who had open communications with their children in elementary school are better able to maintain the same level of communications in middle school.

Leykam explained that the kids who can verbalize what is not going well for them do better because they have a better sense of themselves. “I think that comes from having an open communications with their parents, because they are always talking about what’s going well, what’s not going well, how you learn and how you think,” she said. “The more information kids have about themselves, the better off they are.”

School involvement and homework help have their place, but the most important task for parents is linking school performance to future aspirations.

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