A parent’s electronic dilemma

“I didn’t go to school with a smart phone.” The very tool that helps teens and their parents stay connected and safe has become a major stressor for parents with work and other commitments.  Parents are having trouble being able to balance the pressures of increased engagement throughout the day while encouraging their teen to practice those all-important adulting skills.  Parents often reflect “When I got a bad grade, a fight with my friend, mistreatment from a teacher or didn’t feel well I had three choices.”

  • Figure a way to deal with it with the tools I had.
  • Speak to an adult for a resolution (teacher, nurse, principle, or other school staff member)
  • Wait 8-10 hours till my parents got off work and get their perspective. Majority of these issues were resolved at the end of the day and my parents didn’t have their days thrown off.

Calling or talking to my parents was never an option because… I didn’t have a phone!

The pressure on parents today is greater than any other time. Social media onslaught, 24-hour news cycle, pandemic stress, an ever-increasing fast paced society has greatly increased pressures on today’s teens who frequently turn to parents as a first line of help.  Mental health experts have been hearing from parents of teenagers who send panicked anxious texts from school and expecting immediate help like these.

  • Please help me now!
  • I’m in the bathroom alone having a panic attack!
  • I’m crying in the lunchroom and need comfort!
  • I feel threated in the hallways!

As parents try to manage their workday they are bombarded with texts and calls from their students whenever they feel anxious, angry, sad or maybe even a little homesick.  The parental role is now “part time therapist” as they send encouraging messages before exams, talk kids through panic attacks and settling communication disputes between teens. With unlimited access, students are losing the ability to advocate for themselves in the educational field. It’s easier to text your mom “This teacher is grading too harsh, can you email them?” then to stand up, approach the teacher and develop communication skills outside of the screen.

Highschool is a practice run for the real world. Having the courage to tell an administrator about a bully is part of the same skills that will help you negotiate for a higher position and more liberties at work. When you get in the job field or college, you cannot rely on family to advocate for you. How can a modern parent cope with the added stress of virtual connectedness brings?

  • Set limitations and expectations with your child for roles, duties, and responsibilities with an eye for gaining practice for adult skills.  Example: If you have grade questions, please email your teacher directly. If you need learning accommodations, I’ll handle that.
  • Set criteria of what is appropriate to leave school early for and what an appropriate waiting time is.  Ex. After you see the nurse and are cleared to go home it will take me 2 hours to wrap up my job duties.
  • Encourage students to reach out to the staff they have available IN PERSON.  Ex.  A schools therapist works with the guidance counselor and teacher to make sure students emotional needs are met. We are here for you.
  • Have regularly scheduled time set aside out of school to discuss the pressures your teen faces daily. Knowing this time is available may divert some to the in-the-moment SOSs.
  • Students WILL rebel, it’s the nature of their developmental phase. Have a plan ahead of time to deal with boundary testing behavior.
  • Seek counseling for your teen if needed. Having a professional can release some pressure for both the teen and parent, while teaching valuable coping skills to deal with modern day challenges.
  • And finally- Take care of yourself and your own physical, emotional, and mental health. “Remember to fill up your own cup because you can’t pour from an empty cup.”