Article by Wendy McCance
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to step back and let your kids take the reins. You spend so many years guiding your kids, teaching them lessons and the rules of the world. You protect them and worry about them and make sure they are learning what they need to learn to survive in life when they are out on their own.
School was always a time where teachers expected parent involvement. You had to make sure that your kids had the supplies they needed, there were conferences to attend and sign up sheets for volunteering. Being a parent with a child in school could feel like a full-time job at times. It was exhausting making sure homework was done and that they were in enough school activities. It was important to stay in touch with the teachers to make sure you were on top of your kids progress and that they were thriving in a school environment.
Two of my children are in high school now and one graduated from high school a few years back. Even though the kids are older, there are still obligations to connect with the teachers and make sure the kids are doing all they need to do to succeed in school.
One of my kids has struggled in classes since middle school. Health issues and ADHD have made school challenging for them. Hell, just getting them to school on days they aren’t feeling their best has been rough. How do you fight for a kid who can’t find the will to fight for themself?
It’s basically a question I posed to my child. I explained that I couldn’t fight harder for their success than what they were doing on their own. It’s been really hard these last few years, I won’t lie. Being sick so often was a crushing blow to my child’s self-esteem. They spend much of their time comparing what they are going through to the typical teenager and often feel out of place. No one understands what I am going through is a commonly heard theme in our home.
With the help of our school (which has given us incredible support along the way) we tried shortened school days and when getting to school was still difficult, we tried homeschooling. Although my child was doing well in a homeschooling program for a little while, they were missing the social interactions of being in school. We were given another school option and this last program seems to be the best compromise we have found. We landed on a unique program for kids who have issues they struggling with.
The other day I went to this new school for parent teacher conferences. I met with several of the teachers and the warm reception I received and the care they showed towards the students was wonderful. There wasn’t one teacher I didn’t think the world of. They were all a great bunch of people.
One of the teachers talked with me for quite a while about my child’s progress and my concerns for what they have been able to achieve so far. The teacher made some suggestions about what my child could do to get ahead and talked about a paper that could be filled out to keep track of extra credit. When I asked for a copy of the paper so we could get started, this teacher had a reply that gave me the most immense relief I have felt in several years now.
The teacher said that they liked to encourage the kids to make the effort to get their work done and ask for items (like this chart) on their own. The attitude of this alternative program is that they need to learn how to navigate ways of finding success on their own without the parent taking the reins. It is important (the teacher explained) for them to learn these skills now before they graduate and are getting ready to go out in the world on their own.
I almost cried with relief. I wanted to hug this woman. I had been fighting so hard to find ways to get my child to become motivated and to get their work done. In every other school environment, I am signing papers stating my child did some work or I am expected to check in regularly with a teacher or even a counselor to make sure my children are accomplishing the tasks set in front of them. But, here, at this alternative school, the process is different. There is a lot of discussing with the kids about ways they can do better and accomplish their goals. They know that they are responsible for their achievements and that the parents can’t intervene. They are given solid reinforcement and encouragement and they have teachers who truly care and want to help them through. It’s the way I wish all schools were.
This is not to say that I don’t want to be involved in my child’s school life or that I am just stepping back completely. I will still stay in touch with the teachers and will be supportive of anything my child needs help accomplishing, but I now have permission to relax a little and allow my child to find their own way. It was something I needed to hear.
Being a parent you second-guess your choices. You want the best for your kids and you struggle knowing if you have done all you can do for them. It’s so difficult to trust that you have taught them enough and finally step away so they can learn to fly on their own. Sometimes it takes a teacher to give you that permission and tell you it’s okay.
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