Near the end of my daughter’s third year in high school, I am reminded that we parents need to be patient with our teenagers, especially our daughters, as much as possible. It’s really, really hard for them in high school which is, today, one of the most stressful environments any of us could ever tackle. Add the state of our country and the world to their personally-demanding environments and we’ve got some highly stressed kids who need our love and support.
My daughter attends Catholic school due to the generosity of others who pay her tuition. Devout parents bring up their children to be devout adults and there are some devoted, religious kids at my daughter’s school. There is also a good-sized group who rebel against their parents’ authority, at least for now, and regularly lie about what they’re doing and with whom. (All of my kids have lied to me in high school.) My sons both graduated from her school, and alcohol and drugs of every kind were available to them, if they wanted them. (One wanted to experiment and one didn’t.)
Have you seen any of the movies about ‘mean girls’? They are the First Clique, the uppermost, most desired group to belong to. They are the girls who siphon the energy of girls they hurt and convert it into power for themselves. They go after other girls for many reasons: too pretty, too smart, too athletic, too friendly, too different, too kind, stole their boyfriends, any reason at all about someone they intend to bring down. They gossip and regularly make up stories, which they put online and send in text messages. They are feared. On the male side are some of the athletes who pick on the weaker boys and the the kids with high IQs. On the news I recently saw a story about a girl, sixteen, I think, who committed suicide rather than face the torment dished out every day.
Our high-schoolers aren’t provided how-to manuals prior to their freshman years and most of them experience a new range of unfamiliar emotions while in high school. It is so easy for all humans to make mistakes in life, but make one in high school? Be ready for high school gossip-mania on an entirely new level.
We need to believe in our children, to stand up for them, no matter what, for who else do they have? We need to be sensitive (how are they really doing?) and be available to communicate with them, if not with us, with a counselor. We need to teach them to find their inner strength—to take martial arts maybe, or join a club at school to gain a support group. We need to go to the school, or the police, if necessary. We need to tell them the truth, that it’s really hard, but it’s temporary and they will make it through. If they are very sensitive or different, we can change schools, home-school–whatever we have to do to get them through this trying period of intense personal growth. We need them to know that, with us by their sides, they’re going to be just fine.