As kids get older, they make a valiant effort to train their parents out of being “embarrassing.” When I was a kid, being “embarrassed” by my parents meant that they were caught singing or dancing in the car, or called me “Curly Sue” in front of someone, or tried to set me up on a friend-date. Every school year, I’d sit my parent’s down so I could lecture them on my expectations for them, at least around my peers. That was, of course, a lot easier when my expectations were that they would buy my school supplies, drop off birthday treats, and come to at least one field-trip a year.
For kids of today, the number one reported concern about in my office has been that kids are afraid their parent’s won’t be politically correct in front of their peers. For parents, the number one reported concern has been that technology is consuming their kids. This creates a minefield for parents and children to navigate, dramatically increasing the odds of a rocky transition back to school.
Kids currently enrolled in school are the first generation where phones and tablets have been ubiquitous throughout their entire lives. In their world: love is not limited by gender, gender is not limited by biology, phones are not treated as a privilege, but a birthright, and assumptions about other people are essentially viewed as micro-aggressions (more than less). As progressive as this “woke” generation of “social justice warriors” is, they aren’t necessarily interested in helping their parents become “cool,” or even less “embarrassing.” What has become totally normal for kids, their parents have barely been given a chance to acclimate to. Often times parents are unaware of what the fight is actually about, creating the perfect storm of frustrating family patterns. Luckily, I have listed a few tips and tricks to help parents and kids avoid any major faux pas this school year. At the very least, you can use this as a guide to help you and your child talk through difficult subjects in this brave new world.
Tips and Tricks
Ask about what pronouns other children prefer before assuming about their gender.
- Feminine: She/Her
- Masculine: He/Him
- Gender Neutral: They/them, Ze/Zir/Zem… and so many more!
Ex: I’m seeing Charlie this weekend and they’re going to take me skateboarding.
Ex: Sam brought my to this great new restaurant, and ze was surprisingly so much fun to hang out with.
If you don’t know what a term means that your child is using, or is popular amongst your child’s friends, ask. Ex:
- Child: Mom, when you clench your purse every time a person of color goes by, that’s a total micro-aggression.
- Mom: What’s a micro-aggression?
- Child: It’s when you do something that is an indirect, subtle, or unintentional act of discrimination against someone.
Talk to your children about setting rules for boys and girls differently. Ex:
- Daughter: Mom, can Lucy and Steve sleep over?
- Mom: Lucy can, but Steve can’t.
- Daughter: That’s not fair! If I’m a lesbian, can Steve sleep over and not Lucy? Your rules make no sense!
Don’t belittle your child’s political or philosophical beliefs, even if you don’t agree. Ex:
- Child: I think it makes sense to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
- Parent: I think you’re too young to understand politics.
- Child: You think I’m too young for a lot of things, but we talked about it in class and I know I think everyone should get insurance.
Collaborate with your child on rules and expectations for the school year, allow them to suggest appropriate consequences, type it up, and have all parties involved sign it.
- Parent: If you are more than 15 minutes late for curfew, what do you think is an appropriate consequence?
- Child: No car for a day?
- Parent: Sure! What about if you drop below a 2.5gpa?
- Child: Maybe I’m grounded until I get that class back up to a 2.5gpa?
Be willing to be held accountable by your children as much as you want to hold them accountable.
- Child: It’s really embarrassing when you keep using “her” when you talk about Jenny. They prefer neutral pronouns!
- Parent: I’ve known Jenny since she was three—It will take me a while to get better about it, but please keep reminding me! It will just take some practice getting used to.
- Child: Ok.
Create a time of day each week to check-in with your kid about how things are going. Setting a routine where it is normal to review homework, allow a safe space for feedback, and make a plan for the week together.
Don’t try to sneak into their technology, such as tracking apps. Your kids are better at technology than you are, and they will find out.
Check with the school and other parents about allergy and emotional concerns prior to taking kids out, or bringing food in.
Have a safety plan. Parents and kids alike have fears over school shootings, or otherwise unsafe situations with peers. Both you and your child deserve to know that even in the worse case scenario, it’s going to be okay. Not only will it reduce your child’s anxiety, but it will reduce yours as well.