High school years are less stormy than thought

Linda Robinson  |  7/8/2009 7:08:42 PM

Back-to-School News Distributed 07/08/09

The high school years are usually a time of experimentation and testing limits. Recent studies, however, reveal that conflict between parents and adolescents is much less than popular culture leads us to believe, according to LSU AgCenter family and child development expert Dr. Linda Robinson.

“Most high school youth adjust well to the maturity demands and expectations of the high school years,” Robinson says, noting there are many similarities in preparing for middle school and high school.

“An important addition to preparing your child for high school includes the use of limits and consequences for inappropriate behavior,” the family expert says.

Talk to your teen. Children usually become more private during adolescence, but try to keep the lines of communication open. Reassure your child that he or she can talk to your about anything that is a concern. When your child does share thoughts or feelings, try to listen and ask open-ended questions to guide your child rather than lecturing. For example, “That is an interesting thought. What would happen if . . .?”

Get yourselves oriented. As with the earlier years of your child’s education, it is important to maintain open lines of communication with your child’s teachers. Your adolescent may try to discourage your involvement, but your involvement sends a message of interest in your child’s academic success and provides a means of staying informed of potential situations that may need your guidance.

Don't forget about after school. Before school begins, discuss daily schedules, expectations and limits with your child. Be clear about what activities your adolescent may engage in after school and with whom; also, be clear about behaviors and situations that are off limits.

Set some limits. The teen years are a time in which your child will gain new and important privileges, such as driving and spending unsupervised time with peers. Increased privileges, however, carry increased responsibility. As the parent, you still have the right and responsibility to set limits and have expectations of your teenaged child.

You may want to negotiate these limits with your child, and there may be times when you will need or want to be somewhat flexible; yet, too much flexibility sends mixed messages and sets the stage for increased conflict.

With limits, you should be prepared to enforce consequences for inappropriate behavior. Two types of consequences are useful in guiding adolescent children:

– Natural consequences. These occur naturally as the result of one’s choices. For example, if your child is caught speeding, he or she will get a speeding ticket. Expecting your child to pay for this ticket and any increase in insurance coverage would be a natural consequence of speeding. Paying the ticket for your child reinforces the message that he or she will not be held responsible for poor choices.

– Logical consequences. These are consequences that you as a parent impose for inappropriate behavior. For example, if your child has procrastinated on an important assignment due on Monday and wants to go camping with friends on the weekend, a fair, logical consequence would be that he or she has to stay home to work on the assignment.

Build a relationship with your child’s teacher. The family is the first and most significant context of a child’s development. Your child’s education, however, will be critical to your child’s future success. Meeting your child’s teacher and communicating with the teacher when you have concerns or questions helps the teacher understand your child and his or her unique needs better.

Staying connected to your child’s school also shows your child that you value his or her education. Children do best in school when parents and teachers partner together in supporting the child.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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