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ParentNet® Ninth Grade Summary
Our ParentNet meeting began with a question: What defines life right now with your 9th grader? Answers included: Life is a roller coaster of emotions; sudden highs, sudden lows; child is increasing distance from parents, reclusive, secretive, embarrassed by parent presence; child is pushing boundaries; child is finding steadiness and balance, finding and enjoying his/her own niche in the social system; child loves school/ hates school; academic pressures are too much/ too little. After discussing the Parent Contract, we chose two discussion groups:
- How to help children navigate a path among various groups and their values, and
- How to set limits and boundaries with our kids.
Highlights of Discussion Groups:
The Nature of Groups: We discussed how our children are navigating through various groups and sorting out their values. There are many groups: family, friends, non-school neighborhood groups, last year's 8th grade cliques; groups defined by things they share, such as activities, material means, academic interests, love of computers, or of mountain climbing, sports, etc. Many of us thought our children were finding their individual places more comfortably, that other children were basically accepting of diversity, and so the pressure to "belong" was decreasing. Still, children face daily crises of being accepted or rejected, feeling superior or inferior. The best way to "solve" these universal problems, we decided, was for parents and school to try to help them to understand the nature of groups, to find ways to hold onto their own self-esteem.
We discussed the boundaries we are setting for such things as dating, curfews, time at friends' houses, treks to the city, going out on the street at night, homework supervision, driving. We questioned whether the school's "Senior Buddy" system has set limits of how seniors should relate to their 9th grade buddies. We found that for the most part our ninth graders are not seriously pairing off or partying, as newspapers might have us think. They are hanging out in groups, talking on the phone. We recognized that kids today face a different world than we did, one more fraught with perils and therefore one more restricted and regulated, so they have fewer opportunities to explore and learn from their mistakes. But they are pressing the old limits. Girls tend to press different ones than boys. Though none of us believed our children were involved in smoking, drinking or drugs, it isn't always obvious.
We returned to the larger group, shared additional comments and ideas, and recommended the following:
- We agreed to encourage friends in the community to let us know if they have reason to believe our children are involved in harmful activities. It may be awkward to give or receive such a warning, but we would try to thank the messenger.
- In general, we agreed the best way to supervise children while letting them socialize with one another in private is to maintain communication with other involved parents.
- We agreed to continue the discussion about boundaries, in greater depth, encouraging all voices to share their perspectives on what are appropriate boundaries for 9th graders.
- To determine if the school has set boundaries on appropriate activities for senior buddies with our 9th graders, we have designated a parent to confer with the Dean and report back at our next meeting.
- Encourage some school events where parents and children are involved -- e.g. Service projects, wilderness outing, project week, and class events. Our ParentNet Rep will pursue this with the school.
- Are there ways we can better help ki ds understand the nature of groups? This might be a good topic for a parent or student seminar. ParentNet Rep will follow up.