Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: High-school struggles are real, even more so for parents of teens

The school year is in full swing, yet some are still having trouble adjusting.

This community opinion was contributed by community member Gloria Willoughby. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

Sleep becomes a privilege not a right.

That is the only possible conclusion you can draw from the illogical school schedule. You know the typical angsty teenager stereotype? I get it, a good share of it is existential and just a phase, yet I bet it wouldn’t be as bad if kids could have a proper sleep according to their natural sleep patterns. In teenage kids, these patterns shift to falling asleep and getting up later. Yet we force them to get up even earlier than before, just because they are old enough to wait for a school bus in dark hours of the morning. Plus we want to squeeze sports sections later in the day after school is over.

All is well, yet contrary to popular beliefs, sleep patterns are not something you can train. We can force our kids to get up early and send them off to bed at 9 p.m., but it won’t make early birds of them. It will make them miserable. And if you struggle with an unruly and moody teenager that does not make you happier, does it?

Their social group changes

Transition to another social environment usually brings anxiety even for extroverted children who are eager to meet new kids. You move to another place, your child’s BFF’s family move, they change schools for some other reason – all this means changes. New people, new company. Kids are anxious to fit in, they want to be popular or at least not to be an outcast.

Parents, on the other hand, dread the proverbial “wrong company”, especially when our teens seem to do everything contrary to our wishes. As they grow and we become “uncool”, everything we taught them becomes obsolete. Not only they stop listening to us, they sometimes start acting contrary to common sense and take risks just for a peer validation.

Academic load is ridiculous

“Are they kidding me or have I enlisted my child in a school for young geniuses by mistake?” you might ask yourself as you help to write a research paper or solve an equation together with your youngster. Is it me or school used to be less complicated back in a yore? Anyway, when your desperate offspring comes to you for advice and tips, you feel lost, puzzled, and powerless. Yet you do not show it. You exercise some old-fashioned grit and carefully study the textbooks, and as your panic grows, you calm yourself with Marge Simpson’s mantra “I just have to stay one lesson ahead of the kid”.

Still, even if you manage to explain the tricky topic to your child (or better still understand it yourself!), your heart is still aching because you see how overwhelmed she is. If you add some extracurricular activities – sports, art sections, hobby clubs, what is left? Sometimes it seems that educators live in an alternative universe where the day is 36 hours long. This would explain how they expect an average child attend classes, do the homework, participate in school events, play, dream, contemplate life, and have a good night sleep – all with slow and mindful meals thrown somewhere in between.

Shopping is an ordeal

We have many dress code absurdity gems in school regulations (I still fail to see why bandanas were okay back in my days but aren’t appropriate for our kids anymore). We have some brilliant reactions from San Benito High School students who made a countrywide splash last year calling out sexist norms for dress code enforcement that primarily targets girls. Unfortunately, things do not change fast enough. Girls still get detentions for ridiculous reasons. Pro and con dress code debates seem endless.

Anyway, even with the dress codes that are logical and humane, shopping for clothes with a teenager can be a grueling undertaking. Your kid wants to look effortlessly cool. As in “I look cool because I am cool, not because I try to look cool. I don’t care a dime what I look”. That’s the theory.

In reality, it means pondering over a print on a backpack for two hours straight. It means that a T-shirt that would have been okay otherwise, becomes uncool when your mom notices it first and suggests it for you. (What mom likes is not cool by definition, at least every teen knows as much.) It means not wearing the boots you have spent two weekends shopping for because someone else has already shown up in those at school before you did and you are not a copycat. That’s just a tip of an iceberg but you get the idea.

Anyone with older kids, does it get better when they are in college?



hits 2

Gloria Willoughby

Gloria is a writer and educator, raising a beautiful teenage daughter.