Hope Katz Gibbs

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Hanging with the ‘rents … Bonus or Bogus? [Kids Today / USA Today]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Kids Today / USA Today
Cover story
April 23, 1995

You used to love it when dad volunteered in your class. Now you cringe when he chaperones a dance. You used to show off mom at science fairs, now you hope she’ll be too busy too attend.

Around middle school, your feelings get mixed up. You want your parents in your life, but you also have new friends and interests and want some privacy.

Can you have it both ways?

Yes, says Lynn Makowicz, editor of The Parent Involvement Handbook: “Kids need to tell their parents what they are comfortable with. It’s not always that they want their parents to drop out of their lives. It is usually that kids just don’t want their mom embarrassing them.”

But you need to be careful sometimes when kids push parents away, they stay away. A recent study by Child Trends, Inc., a non-profit research group, found that when kids enter high school, parents become dropouts, missing PTA, plays and games.

In fact, only half of the parents of students 16 and older are moderately or highly involved in their child’s life, the study says. That’s a big drop from middle school years, when about three-fourths of parents actively participate.

The hands-off approach may be OK with some kids, but research shows you can benefit from having the folks around.

The study shows that when parents are not involved at school, kids are twice as likely to repeat a grade, and three times as likely to be suspended or expelled. Plus, no matter how old you are, it’s still nice to have mom or dad there when you make the winning point or steal the scene in the play.

So the answer seems to be finding a balance—keeping your folks near, while keeping your own space.

Expert tips:

• Ask for help. Whether it’s on what classes to register for or what club to join, parents love to give advice. If you ask for help, it won’t be forced on you.

• If you do want them at your game or show, invite them. Don’t expect them to read your mind.

• If you don’t want them at the class party, tell them. Explain that you can’t act naturally when they are around. They were kids once (really), they’ll understand.

“They most important thing,” Makowicz says, “is to keep the lines of communication open.”

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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