A new school year means finding a way to get serious AND loosen the reigns

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by Cheryl Kirk

I admit I have been a bit of a helicopter parent and my children's biggest advocate when it comes to their education. That means making sure they are organized, completing assignments, contacting teachers if they are having trouble and need extra help, and emailing the school counselors to ensure they have the classes they need and on track for graduation.

I have a 9-year-old son starting fourth grade at a private school here in Indianapolis, and this year he will need to start thinking about the kinds of classes and career interests he might pursue in middle school and beyond. And with his classwork increasing, he will also need to develop study skills and time organization. I know this might sound like a lot for a fourth grader, but you have to start these things early and a little bit at a time.

Right now, he is a typical kid just interested in eating, sleeping and having fun, so this new focus should make for an interesting school year.

There are also my 16-year-old twins who are entering their junior year. There is so much to be done­–SAT, college visits, community service, on top of all the regular demands of high school. My daughter is torn between engineering and business, and my son is leaning towards business.

Our next nine months will be filled with college tours and meetings with financial counselors along with investigating the right football or track programs for my son. Having a student athlete looking to compete in college adds a whole new element to preparing him for college because of all the NCAA requirements.

When I purchased school supplies I purchased a folder and notebook for college tours. The twins and I took a course offered by The Center for Leadership Development over the summer called College Prep that helped us learn where to start with our college search journey–what they will need to navigate for college admissions and what they will need for success once they get into college.

But now that my twins are juniors in high school, I'm learning how to loosen the reigns and delegate some of my advocating to them. I want them to be the ones reaching out to teachers, talking to counselors, and arranging for extra help. I don’t want to be told, “I can't do that.” The truth is they only have 18 high school months left, and I know I'm not going to be at college with them to advocate for them and ensure they receive the resources they need to be successful.

My goal as a parent is not only to ensure they get the best education they need for success now, but also to teach them how to advocate for themselves in all other parts of their lives.