When to jump in, and when to stay out

by | Oct 10, 2021

by Crystal Chiang

When kids enter high school, a lot of parents aren’t quite sure how to be involved in a helpful way. Either they didn’t engage enough, or they intervene way too much. Here are a few things that I wish I could tell every parent as they help their child navigate the high school years.

1. They can advocate for themselves.

By ninth grade, your student can handle most teacher-student conversations on his or her own. If they need to know how to make up a missing assignment, what their grade was, or whether a teacher offers extra credit, they can (and should) ask for themselves. In fact, that’s just as true for when they need help in a subject, with a classmate, or in a challenging group project. For MOST of the situations your student will face academically, they are completely capable of finding and speaking with the right person.

Here’s the problem: They don’t want to. Talking to adults can feel awkward and uncomfortable for ninth or tenth graders, and the discomfort can lead them to avoid those conversations, telling their parents that they just can’t.  But that doesn’t mean a parent has to jump right in. In fact, an uncomfortable conversation is one of the best times a parent can let their teenager know, “I believe in you and I believe you can handle this.” One of the chief goals of high school is to lead your student toward independence. In a few short years, they’ll be driving, dating, and maybe even living on their own. And while they’re nowhere near ready for any of that in ninth grade, part of our job is to teach them the skills of doing things on their own.

2. You should still advocate for them (sometimes).

In my experience, parents of high schoolers are tempted toward two extremes. They either over-involve themselves, never allowing their child to develop the skills of self-advocacy OR they back away completely and miss some key opportunities to link arms with and support their child. The truth is, there will be times, even with your high school senior, that you may need to speak up on their behalf. It shouldn’t happen all the time, but when your high schooler has made the attempt to speak up for themselves, either with a coach or a teacher, it is okay to step into the conversation and simply ask the question, “How can I help resolve this?” You may find that your teenager lacks the right words and needs some coaching to know exactly what to say in these situations, or you may find an adult who has failed to recognize your teenager’s best efforts and needs you to provide some clarity.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC


Weil College Advising

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