I often work with parents who have to make tough decisions on behalf of their children. “Should I let my child go to this party”. “Should I let my child drop out of the soccer team.” “Should I push my child to take the AP class.” One mother I was working with was struggling with the decision of whether or not to allow her son to switch High School’s – again. This mother worked very hard to understand her child’s concerns, as well as her own. These decisions are never easy – and are multifaceted. I asked her to share some of her insights through the process.
Not Everyone Has a Great High School Experience
Living the Life
Homecoming, football games, talking with friends before class, walking with friends in the halls, going to dances and parties. The life of a high schooler. You know, the one you see in movies? The one that some kids have. The one that some kids want. The one where the “popular” kids and every other group of kids, get along and are friendly with each other.
Is this what you thought your kid’s high school social life would be like…and it’s not? At. All.
You are not alone. Some kids, probably a lot of kids, don’t have this high school social life. It can be a very lonely, uncomfortable, experience with long dreaded days and weeks.
The “Popular” Group
I loathe this term. When my kids use it, it gets me enraged. I think because I know they are giving undeserving power to a group of kids that probably don’t even know they have it. And for what? Which qualities make them popular? That’s always my question. School can be a place where the “popular kids” seem to have it all wrapped up, unaware that they are the envy of the introverted, shy, self-conscious kids in school. That a simple smile or “hello” can change a child’s day. That would be great, and sometimes happens, but really, most kids are just going about their lives, and dealing with their own challenges. Ultimately, it’s up to us to make our happiness. But when it is your kid who is struggling, we can’t help but want to speed the road to happiness along.
Happy Kids, Happy Mom
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “We are only as happy as our least happy child.” It’s hard to be satisfied when your kid is unhappy. You want to fix things. Pronto. Mama and Papa bear kick into high gear. You analyze, agonize, and blame. Then hopefully, we come to the conclusion, that as with most of life’s struggles, the change must start with us. In this case, your child, and you as their support system. We are the creators of our lives. The driver. Not everyone is always pleasant and welcoming, and not everything always goes smoothly. The road may be bumpy, and you may travel with a sound support system, but it is our feet that must do the walking and our hands that must do the steering.
So, put the feelings of being mad at the world aside. Take a deep breath, and know that you can support, advocate for, and guide your children when they are struggling. All while giving them the confidence that they can do this, and are never alone.
Run Away, Or Work Through?
Sometimes families may decide to switch schools to remove their child from a situation. That may be the best answer sometimes. But that’s not always an option, nor is it necessarily the best solution.
My son had struggled with this decision. He transferred to a private school to begin high school. He made a lot of nice friends, but as the year went on he began to dislike the school environment, was struggling academically and was generally disinterested. After MUCH discussion, and a list of pros and cons, we decided (son on board) to move him back to public school. The school year started and he quickly (like the first day) began to remember why he had left this school. The social atmosphere for him was not good. Cliques, popular kids, everyone had their groups established. He is not the outgoing, confident kid that will jump right in and get involved. So, again, we agonized. Do we send him back? Do we let him learn to deal with it? What if he gets depressed, what if he has no friends and has a miserable high school experience. The “what ifs” were killing us. We agonized together and he finally said: “I need you to make the decision!”. My child flat out told me this. It was a gift and a curse. How do you decide for someone else when you don’t know what the right answer is?
Cindy’s Sage Advice
After speaking with Cindy, her advice to me was that “Even with the best of intention, information, and heart, we can’t always know with certainty the right thing to do. It is not just about the decision. It’s about adjusting to life. Even if your decision is “wrong,” your son needs to know that you are strong enough to be there for him and strong enough for having made the decision. Tell him, “we are here, and we are going to get through it together.”
You must bond with the strength of your child, not the sadness. You have to believe that he can do this. Tell him things like “you are a social, wonderful, person. I’m proud of you. You can do this and you are not alone.”
What Can I Do?
How can we help our child feel comfortable at school, even when they are fighting an uphill social battle, each day? Every. Single. Day. Listen, validate, empathize, love, and take it one day at a time.
Here are some articles and resources that may help you support your struggling child (and your struggling self).
WHO MOVED MY CHEESE for Teens
Cindy wrote an article about this book. It is an adorable book than can give a different perspective on how to encourage your child to view change differently and move forward in their lives.
There is a terrific book called Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids. It celebrates and highlights all of the beautiful benefits of being quiet and that there is NOTHING WRONG with it.
15 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU FEEL THAT THE WORLD IS AGAINST YOU
Here is a great list from ThoughtCatalog.com to help remind us of the good stuff. One of my favorites is: “You have more control than you think. You can always find a way to get out of the rut you’re in if you truly take the time to control the way you react to things or ask people to help you out. There is always a way.”
If it gets to be too much, and you don’t know what to do or where to turn, Cindy is available for private parent coaching. Feel free to click here for more information on Parent Coaching or to request a session with Cindy.
There is no quick, easy fix, but if you stay on a supportive, loving path, and allow your child to share their feelings, without trying to “fix it”, you will both learn, grow, and become stronger together. I know it’s a tough process. But, WE can do it.
Much love and peace,
Written for PTS Coaching by Julianne Agnelli