Ever wish you had x-ray vision to know what was going through your teens’ minds? Guess what? Teens wish the same thing!
I asked a bunch of teens (okay, I put a message out on Facebook!) what they wished their parents knew about high school. I polled public school students, homeschool students, private school students, and a few graduates. This quote about sums up what most public and private school students think:
“I wish my parents could go through a week in my school, just to see how much has changed since they were in school.”
The single most important thing to all teens was that their parents trust them to make the right choices and to learn from their mistakes. Teens, no matter where they go to school, think socialization is important; not one of them said they had too many activities! Academically, the grass is always greener on the other side. Public school teens think their teachers do a horrible job of preparing them for tests or moving on to more advanced subjects. Private and public school students think that the homework is insane, but are worried about scholarships, GPA and credit requirements, and getting into the right colleges. Homeschool students want to do what they want to do (writing and drawing got the most votes) and not be bothered with all the other stuff. Some homeschool teens thought what they were doing was boring and wished their parents would challenge them more. Most homeschool students loved having their parents teach them and being able to work at their own pace. One homeschooler appreciated being able to talk to a more knowledgeable teacher in a dual-enrollment college class.
Almost all teens talked more about the social aspect of high school than the academic aspect. Middle school pretty much stinks unless you’re on the football team or cheerleading squad. Sadly, the outright making fun of kids in middle school tends to turn into spreading nasty rumors about them in high school. That’s not any easier to deal with. Prom is a big deal, in case you parents were wondering. So is the fact that girls think guys are jerks at that age. Sorry if you’re a parent of a guy, but that was the consensus! One girl (public school) poured out her heart, and rather than trying to summarize it briefly, I’m going to quote her (with improved capitalization and punctuation).
“I also wish my parents knew of the all the different maturity levels of kids in my school that I come in contact with, in classes, in the hallways, etc. Most people (ex. me and my friends) know how to deal with situations because we face them every day; we know what’s right and wrong. But, there is so much peer pressure to break the rules and do what they know is wrong. Now it’s more than just getting a gold star taken away or being put in time out; it’s breaking the law and going to jail and getting expelled. All of these things can have a major effect on you and your life. I wish my parents knew how cruel some people can be and how hard it is to make friends that you can trust and keep a good reputation. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you could end up being the victim of rumors. The thing is, the rumors are almost never true, but it doesn’t matter because people will spread them around just to have something to talk about. I know a girl at my school that is a very nice girl and she’s had rumors spread about her all year. The most recent was that she’s pregnant by some senior and that she sleeps around. People treat her horribly and you can see how upset it makes her. She’s gone through a lot and dealt with all of the rumors and I look up to her for being so brave/strong about it; I know I would be devastated. I wish my parents knew how hard it is—in the social aspect of things just as much as the educational part.”
Regarding teen/parent relationships, most teens wished their parents didn’t expect them to be perfect. They also said that when they did make mistakes, grounding them for the rest of their lives only makes them resentful; they’d rather discuss what happened and maybe learn from your mistakes. Yep, that means they wish you’d talk to them, too. One girl suggested that maybe teens wanted to share more with their parents but were afraid to. On the flip side, most homeschool teens said they were quite close to their parents and could talk to them about most (if not all) issues. Listen up, parents: several teens wished their dads would be more understanding. Teens are looking for affirmation and trust. Can we parents deliver? Teens want to know what their parents went through. Are we talking? Teens want to talk; they want their parents to hear what they have to say. Are we listening?
Bethany has been married for 16 years, homeschooling for 9 years, and organizing forever. She homeschools her two girls, grade 6 and grade 10, in North Carolina. She is also a partner in Codex Publishing, publisher of The Tutor and classic book reprints. When she isn’t homeschooling or driving the family taxi, Bethany enjoys reading, music, church activities, editing, writing, history, and keeping up with friends.