Parent Involvement: Finding Your Way in Middle School and High School

In elementary school it's pretty straightforward: bringing in cupcakes to help the room mother, reading a story to the class, or helping out at the science fair. Your child is happy - proud even-to have you be a part of his classroom activities. But then comes middle school. It's a new world.

"No, Mom! Please don't come! None of the other parents come, and I don't want you to be the only one!"

Sound familiar? Yes, parent involvement does change as our kids enter adolescence. So we need to change right along with them. Because NOT being involved is NOT the right answer.

Why is this so important? There are many reasons:

  • By involving yourself in your child's middle or high school you are showing him or her that you value education. When you attend school events you are demonstrating commitment to education. This may be one of the most powerful ways to instill this value in your teen.

  • Students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have better academic performance, fewer behavioral problems, and they are more likely to complete high school.

  • Despite the impression you may receive from your teenager, recent research shows that teens want their parents involved, and they feel that parent involvement in high school is even more important than in elementary school.

  • The relationships you develop at school will give you information and insight as to your teen's world, friendships, and the expectations your child is faced with.
  • Your involvement lets the school staff know that you value education and that you are someone with whom they can have a relationship. This can have a direct and positive effect on your child's educational experience.
  • Should issues arise at the school, or with your child, you will already have relationships with people there that can help you.
  • Schools need your help. Schools are often understaffed due to tight budgets and they can use your help in many ways.
  • It can be fun, and in addition to finding new ways to use your skills, you will make new friends in your community.
  • The more in touch you are with your community, and your child's friends and friends' families, the more you are able to knowledgeably support your teen.
  • If you want to see change, the best way to impact it is to be involved from the inside.
  • You can learn new skills through your involvement in school.
  • Involvement in your teen's school has a direct benefit to both of you. This has been demonstrated over and over again.

    Your teen's response to your participation, however, deserves to be respected. If she doesn't want you to have direct involvement in her activities there, you can find other ways to be involved.

    Here are some approaches you can consider:

  • What do you do well? If you are comfortable writing, offer to write a piece for the school website or newsletter.
  • Contact the PTO and offer your services to help them. If you like to cook, offer to prepare a dish for an upcoming event. If you're a whiz with the computer, they'll find you a job. Be creative with them in finding an appropriate answer that fits your schedule.
  • The PTO often has a person who is assigned to gather volunteer names, information about their interests, and serve as a liaison. Touch base with this person; get your name on some lists.
  • If you are more comfortable with collating or copying papers or doing office work, school staff may soon be fighting over you! Let them know your availability.
  • If working at home or at night fits your schedule best, let the volunteer organizers know this. They can direct you to appropriate opportunities and will be grateful for your help.
  • At a minimum, go to all the school events that you can. Get your name on the mailing lists for all announcements. Be there; and be involved. You need to pick up the phone and make it happen. It's your job, and it matters to your teen's success.

    Sue Blaney is the author of Please Stop the Rollercoaster! How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth Out the Ride, and Practical Tips for Parents of Young Teens; What You Can Do to Enhance Your Child's Middle School Years. As a communications specialist and the parent of two teenagers, she speaks frequently to parents, educators, and other professionals about parenting issues, improving communication, increasing parent involvement, and creating parent discussion groups. Visit her website at http://www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com

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