Close to the end of every school year, the questions I field most from parents are about next steps. This is especially critical at the conclusion of 7th grade. And, my answer hasn’t really changed over the years because that answer has a deep root in some painful experiences.
A number of years ago, while studying Shakespeare with my then 12th graders, we embarked on a unit about love sonnets. After deconstructing Sonnet No. 18, I thought we would have a lark by writing our own sonnets about lost love. I thought it would be fun because it seemed like a great opportunity for my class to take some playful swipes at former boyfriends or girlfriends, get a little poetic revenge and revel in all the drama (remember, these were 12th graders!)
At any rate, when the assignments were turned in, I was shocked to see that the majority of them were about parents. The sonnets were about everyday working parents who had taken a more laissez-faire approach to parenting when their sons and daughters entered high school. The sonnets were about more responsibilities coupled with less interactions with their former greatest fans and mentors. The sonnets asked why everything had changed and why it couldn’t be the way it once was. These almost 18-year-olds had needed their parents’ attention and involvement even more during the high school years and the “independence” and “space” had been perceived as abandonment.
This phenomena was further confirmed for me when another student some time later gave me the academic award certificate he had received from another class. I had been confused and then saddened when he told me, “You’re the only person in my life who cares about that kind of stuff; you should keep it for me.”
So, stay involved and even get more involved. And if you encounter resistance from your teenager (you will), maybe try a different approach, but don’t stop. This transition is big and your multi-faceted role that now includes bridge to a new world has to be constant, steady, forgiving, but most of all, present.