Transitioning from mom-ing littles to the tween and teen years can cause frustration and exhaustion. Local moms share advice on parenting this age group, which though occasionally hostile and hormonal is also treading tough waters between childhood and adulthood as they determine who they are and how to share those findings with the world around them.
Get into their business! Ask lots of questions even if your teen acts like it annoys him. Ask specific questions about their day: What was something funny that happened? Did anything make you angry today? What was the highlight of your day?
Michelle Sutherlin Strain, mom to Alex Strain, freshman at USAO in Chickasha, Ryan Sutherlin, senior, and Will Sutherlin, freshman, both at Norman North. Michelle is a counselor at Norman North High School.
Checking social media
Check their social media often, both their regular accounts and fake accounts. Remind them the written word (and images) last forever. When it comes to technology for parents, get an app that shows your teen’s location as it can help hold them accountable. I recommend Life 360.
Michelle Sutherlin Strain
We made a weekly calendar for our older daughter as she began high school. On Sundays, we add in that week’s activities and homework assignments so we are aware of deadlines. She is fairly responsible for all her assignments so the burden of keeping up with them lies on her. Our younger daughter can get bored with school when she’s not challenged and sometimes will slack off. We ask her a lot about pending assignments and what she needs help with. We are working with her to understand how to study and the repetition necessary to commit knowledge to memory. As she transitions to middle school, we are setting up a dedicated study space in her room with a desk and bulletin board.
Brenda Schwartz, mom to Campbell, freshman at Yukon High School, and Harper, sixth grader at Yukon Sixth Grade Academy. Brenda is director of honoree relations for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Transitioning to middle school
My middle schooler’s homework situation has been tricky since everything is online and I have been too lazy (and too trusting) to check his assignments. I initially felt being uninvolved with the online ‘parent portal’ was the way to go because I told my son he can’t expect to be micromanaged when he gets out into the world, but then I realized that giving a tweenager that much freedom isn’t helpful during the transition from elementary to middle school.
Elena Mora, mom of Alex, seventh grader at Alcott Middle School, and Olivia, fourth grader at McKinley Elementary School. Elena is an online consultant for Ideal Homes.
Communicating with teachers
My experience is that teachers welcome all parental involvement. Communicating your child’s challenges and talents allows teachers an understanding of how to best support that child. I recommend parents attend back-to-school night, introduce themselves to their child’s teachers and establish an open line of communication for any missed assignments or challenges that may occur during the year. I also reach out via email to introduce myself once school begins to let teachers know my husband and I support them and to reach out any time if they need more information or have questions.
Our older daughter has had her own phone since the beginning of seventh grade (when she began working as a sports manager and we needed to be able to reach her) with the understanding that her dad and I can check her text conversations at any time. We also watch her Instagram posts closely and Snapchat posts as we can, reiterating we can check her phone at any time. Our younger daughter, who’s in sixth grade, does not have a phone and we do not plan to give her one until she reminds us when we allowed her big sister to get one! Harper is much more engrossed by technology than Campbell was so we will likely limit her time on a phone and watch the content more closely.
Be patient. Remember their frontal lobes are still developing. They are learning how to act every day and will make mistakes.
Michelle Sutherlin Strain