TeenVoices: Back to School: What Teens Want Their Parents to Know

  • That alarm going off in the morning isn’t easy to hear. Not only do we want another five minutes… we need it. It can be difficult to transition from the “sleep-ins” of the summer to the early rises for school.
  • First day appearances are important to us. We want to make sure we show our best selves on the first day which can be hard when complicated by teen struggles like acne, bad hair days and a lack of self-confidence.
  • Cafeteria politics. With new class schedules, it’s not a guarantee that all our friends have the same lunch time, and there is somewhat of an unspoken rule that where you sit on the first day determines the rest of the year. It can be difficult to choose where to sit and find new friends within the first few minutes of lunch. 
  • Going back to the structured routine of school after the freedom of the summer can be tricky. It’s strange to go from free-flowing summer days to having lunch at a certain time and even having to ask to go to the bathroom.
  • Homework! I could go on about this one for a while. It is hard when teachers assign lots of homework, especially when we have multiple classes to worry about and extracurricular obligations.
  • Time management is a learned skill. It may take us a while to find our groove when it comes to balancing schoolwork, sports/activities and free time.
  • Tests, tests, and oh, did I mention tests? Tests are frequent and can be quite stressful, especially when there are many tests all within the same week. While we know that parents may not like the grade we get on an exam, we want you to know that the material is challenging, and we do our best.
  • Social aspects. School is so much more than just academics. It’s a mixture of trying to find the right friend group and feeling comfortable with who you are. It’s not an easy process and there is no formula to get the “right” answer. We are still discovering ourselves.
  • We will make mistakes and might not live up to perceived expectations. We need your support and understanding during these times. A discussion and collaborative approach on how to improve things is better than feeling failure and disappointment.

Really the list could go on and it varies from person to person. Just know that high-school really is hard in all its different aspects. Support and patience is valued as we go through all these back-to-school challenges.

Hannah Adamson is a senior in high school. She practices meditation and takes ThetaHealing courses with Reshma Shah in Westfield, New Jersey. September 2018

School Daze: Heading Back to School After a Divorce

by Laura Favin

No matter how amicable, necessary or even desirable for a child’s well-being, a divorce rocks their world. Parents can help them navigate any unfamiliar terrain with a little planning.

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The first day of school can hold a mix of excitement and dread. Children will have new teachers, classrooms and schedules. Finding a place on the playground or in the cafeteria may be fraught with anxiety.

It’s even more difficult for a child to navigate back-to-school jitters after a summertime separation or divorce. But there are steps parents can take to make a child’s transition easier.

Recognize Emotions
Children whose parents are divorcing may feel scared, angry, insecure or depressed. They often try to hide negative feelings to avoid making the situation worse.

Younger children may feel embarrassed or afraid of crying if they talk about it. Older children may affect a nonchalance that belies the turmoil they feel, and act as if it’s no big deal.

Encourage children to talk about their feelings. Ask if they are nervous about seeing old friends, and if they’re afraid to tell them about Mom and Dad getting a divorce. Be sensitive to the physical and hormonal changes that may affect a teen’s volatility.

Rehearse Strategies
If the divorce resulted in a change of address, walk young children around the new neighborhood. Make a map together of the streets and include landmarks like the golden retriever’s house, the park and the mailbox painted red. Be sure to include a tour of their new school.

Help older children work out how to talk to their friends about the divorce. Robert Emery, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, suggests statements such as, “You know what really sucks? My parents are getting divorced,” and “Thanks for listening. I really need a friend right now.”

Reassure Anxieties
Let children know that one or both parents will continue to attend sports events, class plays and parent-teacher conferences.

Young adults may feel needed at home and consider putting off college and taking a job to contribute financially. Reassure them that they and the rest of the family will do just fine, and that what everyone needs most is for them to stay on the course they’d planned.

Recruit Assistance
Apprise the school’s administrators, guidance counselors, social workers and coaches of the family’s situation. Informed adults can more readily recognize any need for specific support.

Commit to co-parenting by keeping routines as consistent as possible. Share apps such as Our Family Wizard or TeamSnap to track class schedules, homework assignments and after-school activities. Make every effort to attend school conferences together. Ask teachers to alert both parents to changes in a child’s behavior that may not be apparent at home.

The best predictors of a child’s successful re-entry to school after divorce are parents that are prepared to guide, monitor and support them.

Laura Favin, LCSW, is a parenting-mediator for the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, headquartered in Doylestown, with offices in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area, New Jersey and Colorado. Favin earned her MSW through NYU and her MA in psychoanalysis through the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. For more information, call 800-310-9085, email AlphaCares@Alpha-Divorce.com, or visit Alpha-Divorce.com and AlphaResourceCenter.com. August 2016

Letter from the Publisher, August 2016

Karen_LFP_0516The world is a hard place to take right now; just watching the evening news can be an emotionally draining experience. As a new mom, I wonder how I can keep my son safe.

I know that my questions have been faced by countless other parents. How can I help him grow up strong and steady, with a sense of internal peace and confidence? What can I do to make sure he knows he is the ocean and not the waves? And how can I imbue in him the skills to act righteously, lead confidently, connect empathically and stay rock-solid in a place of self-love, whatever challenges life presents to him?

While voices of reason paraphrase Gandhi’s urging to “be the change” and encourage us to mold the world through our behavior, the reality is that in order for our children to be righteous, confident, empathic and full of self-love, we need to teach them to be so. If they are going to operate from a rock-solid foundation in the face of challenges, we have an obligation to give them the tools to build that foundation.

Part of that process, researchers are finding, begins with honoring and cultivating creativity in adults and children alike. Julia Cameron, author of the internationally bestselling book The Artist’s Way, has given us a new resource: The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children. In it, she explains that because we are role models for our children, how we relate to ourselves as creative beings sends a message to them about their own creativity.

Another avenue for foundation-building involves integrating mindfulness into our education system. At The Lotus School of Liberal Arts, in Ottsville, students enjoy moments of silence after class to allow them to be completely present for the experience. They reflect on what was said, what they learned and how they felt, allowing them a more relaxed, deeper learning opportunity. You can read more about it in our article “The Mindful Classroom.” We can build this slowing down and paying attention into more curriculums, helping students decompress and combat the harried, hurry-up mentality that dominates our culture and sometimes keeps us from acting (and reacting) as our best selves.

If mindfulness is not currently part of our children’s school experience, we, as parents, can help them build mindfulness into their daily routines, teaching them to take short mental breaks to “mini-meditate” throughout the day. We can also pay closer attention and more readily recognize when children need more support. One such scenario is outlined in our article “School Daze,” which offers helpful tips for guiding children (regardless of age) as they navigate the emotional terrain of going back to school during a difficult family transition.

As back-to-school time approaches, even we adults get the urge to sharpen our pencils and learn something new. Let’s remain open to opportunities that help us become more centered and grounded. We can then help the young people in our lives learn to do the same. May your learning process bring you not only knowledge, but also wisdom and growth. That’s what will help us all make this world a better place for the next generation.

With you in Awakening,

Karen G. Meshkov

August 2016

Back-to-School Parenting Tips

As back-to-school time draws near, it is important to take a moment and reflect on our own homework — that of being an effective parent. As new parents many years ago, my husband and I made a short list of the character traits that we hoped our kids would have as adults. Our wisdom has grown in the past twenty-eight years as parents, and with that, so has the list. Continue reading