Dialogue Advice for Parents of Middle School Students
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We sat down with Whitney Takacs, counselor at Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate School, Mercedes Samudio, who is a parent coach, bestselling author, and speaker, and Walter Duncan, a veteran educator and teacher entrepreneur to talk about their best dialogue advice for parents with children heading back to school.
How can we, as parents and educators, set expectations for students as they head back to school? What is your best dialogue advice for parents?
One of the best tips for going back to school with your tweens is setting expectations. Digital expectations too. Sometimes we want to back off as parents and let our tweens do their thing when school starts, but they need you. They need you to help them manage their homework and their social lives, but they also need you to help them manage their digital lives. Talk to your tweens. What do you want that phone or Internet usage to look like when they go back to school? What is your timeframe? What can they use and what can they not use? You can even create a contract with your student to set boundaries. –Whitney Takacs, Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate School
What does it mean to stay open and stay curious with your tweens? How can you stay open and curious with your tweens as a parent?
Many parents tell me that this is all new to them when their child enters middle school. But, the same is true for your tween - this is all new for them too. Instead of assuming the worse - or even labeling your tween - be sure to get curious about their behavior before setting limits. Sometimes parents can get overwhelmed with all of the news and the research and the "shoulds" and the "what ifs." I challenge the parents that I work with to set aside their assumptions of what a tween will do and really start to ask questions and be curious about what their tween is doing. The person that they have in their home. When you are being curious, stay open. Listen to the full story and don't make judgements right away especially when it comes to why they didn't do a certain assignment or made a poor decision with a group of peers. Be open and really listen so that you can get a better understanding of how your child is processing these issues and you can have a better understanding of how to guide them through those issues. –Mercedes Samudio, Shame-Proof Parenting
How and why should parents get data on their student from their teachers?
When back-to-school starts and we have that back-to-school night where all the parents and teachers come together and shake hands, that is a great place for a parent of a tween to connect with the teacher. There are two types of data that the teacher should be capturing: checking for understanding on a daily basis and common benchmark informative assessments. These assessments give down to the detail information on what specific areas your child is struggling with and this is so important because the rigor increase significantly for our children when they make that move from elementary to middle school. We want to be able to support them. We can do that by simply asking our teachers, "Please, can you share with me this data so I can target the tutoring and the extra help that I can bring in." If the students do not master these early concepts, it's more difficult later on to build upon them and as a parent, you have a hand in making sure as long as you are willing to connect, listen to, and speak with the teacher. –Walter Duncan, Quick Key
What are some frequent misconceptions that parents have? What are some of those “I heard…” parent misconceptions that you hear on a daily basis?
All of the parents say, "Well, I heard they can do this all on their own. I heard the school doesn't want me around anymore because they are out of elementary school and there is no place for a parent on the junior high campus." That is totally wrong parents. We want you and your kids need you. Believe it or not, the kids who have zero parent involvement miss it. They want boundaries and communication with their parents. Stay involved. –Whitney Takacs, Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate School
The "I heard" that I hear is "I heard that I really need to focus on my kid's academics so they can get into a good high school and they can get into a good college." While I feel like yes, you do need to focus on academics, I also want to alert parents to the fact that their emotional and mental health is just as important as their academic health. So when you see your kid's grades or assignments take a nosedive, don't immediately focus on tutoring or getting them extra credit assignments. Really begin to also look at what is going on with them emotionally. What is going on in their peer groups? What is going on with puberty? Check in with them and see how they are handling the pressures of being a tween. –Mercedes Samudio, Shame-Proof Parenting
My "I heard" is "I heard Ms. Juilliard is the meanest, hardest teacher ever, ever, ever" and kids will be saying this. It gives us an opportunity as parents to make sure that we connect with Ms. Juilliard and all of the other teachers not just when a crisis arises. Not when our kids have three detention slips and four tardies. We want to establish that relationship early and make sure that it is healthy with a two-way dialogue so that Ms. Juilliard is watching out for our own child and knows that we support our child. Then we are better able to handle those inevitable moments of crises that make up a life of a middle schooler. We want to be able to help our children to face these crises and help them grow through the process on their journey to adulthood. –Walter Duncan, Quick Key
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