Lots of churning and change in the grade 8 and grade 9 years — said the recent homeschool conference speaker. I didn’t need someone to say that out loud in a seminar actually — I have personal experience. With my kids, of course, but also my own stories.
I thought those turbulent years were significant because they were tough times for my parents. But I might have assumed that that time of life was a singular issue. In hindsight, with a little parenting experience under my belt, I can see that these are turbulent years with or without parent issues.
Besides surviving this turbulent time in our children’s lives, there are other skills that will help kiddos this age prep for their future said the conference speaker.
- Learn to digitize their work (uploading and emailing). I had to giggle at this suggestion–is there a teenager out there that doesn’t email or upload stuff? Or teach their parents how to do online stuff?
- Keyboard skills (ditto from above). If only they could snapchat their essays. Goofy smiles and emoticons included.
- Presentation skills. Standing in front of a crowd, learning prezi software or just old fashioned performing, violin or choirs, theatre or speeches, it all contributes to their public confidence.
- Independently engaging teachers. Or other significant adults in their world. Allowing them to engage their adult worlds in an adult way, independently.
What we parents need to do in relationship to these kiddos?
- Don’t be judgmental, but be realistic. Perish the thought. Who would do such a thing? Honestly, this age, so many things to judge. Don’t talk to your friend that way? Do you know that your undergarment is showing? I think that’s too much eyeliner. Way too easy.
- Get them to reflect on schoolwork. From my unschooling mindset, this is my default setting. Think about what you’re doing, and do it all with intent. Are you scheduling your time well? Is there a different framework in which you could think through this topic? What do you think of the theme?
- Help them work through schedules. But from my unschooling mindset, I don’t thrive on academic schedules, so I need to create these opportunities for my kiddos, whether through on line classes or brick and mortar classes. Funny that some kids love schedules and create them independently in my home; others like rising with lunch and assume that the world is on their timeline.
- Don’t encourage perfectionism. Galdarnit. First born married to a first born, this is tough advice for me. But since I’ve also learned that perfectionism is the bane of happiness, I’ve learned that letting it go is requirement, for them and for me.
- Teach self compassion. Yup, I’m learning that for myself too. When I make a mistake, I prefer getting out the boxing gloves. On the other hand, what would I say to a friend? Not to get out the boxing gloves. Learn from your mistake. Then move on in the expectation that you’ll learn what you need when you need to learn it.
- Share opinions in respectful ways. Mwahahaha. I try, I try… It’s taken me years to learn that in teaching them to share their opinions in respectful ways, I also had to learn to speak mine respectfully. Yelling, “be kind to your sister already” doesn’t work. (Well, sometimes it does.)
- Practice empathy–not black and white thinking. Again, I try, I try. The one thing that I didn’t realize I was doing in helping my kiddos was having more kiddos. Yes, it makes for a loud household. And no doubt it’s more expensive. Certainly more work. Many opportunities to learn empathy, kindness, gentleness, sharing opinions in respectful ways when you have many people to practice it with.
- Gradually pass over the reigns to your children. When once I thought I must eventually choose to pass the reigns to my child, I have been challenged by my child (who has been dying for independence since she was two days old) to allow her as much independence as she can responsibly handle.
At the end of the conference seminar, the speaker encouraged me not to be judgmental, to remember that my kids are watching and listening to me, to be real, to admit my mistakes, to keep teaching my kids empathy and to breathe and pray all the way.
Some days all I can do…breathe and pray…
(and thanks to CHEC for an encouraging conference!)