Parenting tip: Remember, your goal is to raise a child who has the skills and confidence to be successful on their own at age 18. “Letting go” and “being involved” are two very different things. You can’t micromanage a teenager, but you do need to remain knowledgeable about their Internet use, friends, whereabouts and school performance. The task of staying informed can be overwhelming, and no matter how much you trust your teen, do not assume they always exercise good judgment. Stay involved and on top of what they are doing, accepting that you do not need to know every last detail of their social life. If you overstep your boundaries, acknowledge this.
Q: Since my son entered first grade in the fall, he complains every day about going to school. He loved preschool and kindergarten — what’s wrong?
A: Ask him what is different about school this year. If he can’t be more specific than saying that he doesn’t want to go, review his schedule (school and extracurricular) and find out how he views the different parts of his day. Ask him if there is something outside of school that he dislikes, and ask about his friendships. Maybe his after-school schedule is too full and he’s too tired for school. It may have to do with your home life, not his school life. Perhaps there are changes in your schedule and you are home less often, making him miss you more when he’s away at school. Consider all these possibilities when a younger child complains and is unable to articulate the source of their discontent.
If your son does not come up with any answers after all this discussion, then tell him that though you don’t have the answer yet, you can clearly see he is troubled about something and that you intend to find out what the problem is and how you can help him. Next, schedule a parent-teacher conference and review your concerns with the teacher. Chances are that something will come up there that has not already been mentioned. If not, ask the school psychologist or adjustment counselor to conduct random observations of him to see if he is overtly unhappy during the school day. If they find nothing, do not dismiss his concerns; they are legitimate if he is unhappy about going to school. Your child should want to go to school; he does not have to love it every day (let’s be realistic), but he should not dread it daily, either.