Back to School, The Teen Edition

We’re all getting ready for that return to school. My daughter, Grace, has been away for a year but returns to college in the fall. I think she pretty much has it under control — the packing, what she will need, etc. Her father is going to get her moved in.

We’re seasoned veterans now.

For those of you sending teens off to high school for the first time, you have a lot to look forward to and a lot of anxiety and hard days and nights ahead. Dealing with the academics is probably the easy part. Navigating the social part is nerve wracking. My friend and fellow journalist Mindy Basara is sending her daughter, Lindsey, off to high school this year, and I can tell you she has some trepidation. She worries about balance and how to give her daughter independence, while still maintaining some degree of control over her behavior.

Well, my dear Mindy and other parents, I am always here to listen and to offer advice. You all watched me go through it with my daughters, and I will admit, there’s a lot of “stuff” to deal with. (I really wanted to use the other “s” word.)

Here are some things to consider: The days of landlines and calling a house to make sure your kids are there are gone. So, stay connected to the parents of your children’s friends. Have their cell numbers in your phone so you can text and talk when you need to about school, carpools and other matters.

For example, you also can make sure that all of your children’s stories check out. My oldest, Paige, once told me she and her friends were at a friend’s house, but when I called that house, I found out from her mother that they were someplace else.

We want to give our children a certain amount of privacy. However, these days I think it’s OK to have an app on your phone to help you see where your children are at all times — it keeps them safe. But don’t be sneaky about it, particularly with teenagers. Tell them up front that’s what you are doing. For one, it will make them think twice about doing something slick.

Then there’s dating. It’s inevitable, and as such, parents must stay open to talking about this subject.

That includes discussion of boundaries, what’s appropriate and what you expect from them. I was never one for hot and heavy relationships. You know, the kind of attached-all-the-time relationship in which the boyfriend or girlfriend comes over to the house, hangs out all day, is up in their room or even helps with household chores as if he or she is part of the family. This does happen, and my advice is to not let your child set the rules about this.

Tell him or her what you expect. Let them know they are free to date and at what age and what you are comfortable with if you are so inclined to let them date. But remind them they have their whole lives ahead of them and there is plenty of time to fall in love … and to have sex.

Keep your teens busy. Those after-school activities keep them occupied. Being part of a team builds character and teaches them about getting along with people. The more structured things they have to do, the less fooling around there will be.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Often there is pressure for kids to participate in parties or other activities that they don’t want to be a part of, and they don’t know how to deal with the pressure. Sometime they just need you to say no and get them off the hook.

Finally, have your bestie on speed dial. You will need someone to vent to about your child’s behavior, which is bound to go haywire. And yes, at some point, your kids will make you want to put them out before it’s time. Don’t forget you were in their shoes once.

But remember: You are still the boss.


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