I recently attended a parent workshop night at Flower Mound High School. There were approximately a dozen different choices offered, and each of the four workshop sessions lasted 25 minutes. Topics ranged from mental health issues to regular track vs. AP coursework, and some of the workshops explored certain groups of courses offered through the high school, such as technology, math, business, and home economics.
I don’t have a student at Flower Mound this year, though I have had two sons graduate from the school over the past six years. Given that I will have another two students go through, one of whom starts next year; I felt it was worth my time to attend the program to see what could be gained.
The first session I chose was led by local counselor Tiana Gooden, LCSW. Her practice is largely made up of area adolescents and their families. Ms. Gooden’s presentation centered on the mental health issues she encounters everyday in our community’s young people, anxiety and depression being most prevalent. Ms. Gooden stressed to parents the importance of finding a balance between pushing students academically and helping them find ways to keep stress under control. Her message to parents was to look at the bigger picture of personal achievement vs. quality of life and to strive to guide their child into navigating the balance appropriately.
The second workshop I attended was presented by three faculty members from the high school that compared regular track coursework to PreAP/AP tracking. The teachers talked about what colleges are looking for from the students, as well as the environment that can be found in the classroom of a regular track vs. accelerated track classroom setting. Essentially the message I heard was regular track students aren’t as serious about their studies, and those who challenge themselves with accelerated coursework will be much better prepared to take on the next level of their academics.
After leaving those two sessions I felt confused, almost as if FMHS parents were receiving a mixed message.
What I heard was if you want your son or daughter to succeed, they should be in accelerated courses. The risk in taking that path is they may become one of many who teeter into academic overwhelm while in the process of trying to get to college.
Bottom line: It’s our job as parents to help our kids succeed, but not end up in counseling.
Some kids who pursue the accelerated academic route make high marks and manage to handle [some maybe even with ease] the pace of the work that is expected of them. Some kids may also flourish socially and be involved in extracurricular activities on top of that. But, if you are a parent in this community then you have also heard about, or maybe personally experienced, students who have, or are currently struggling with, mental health issues and/or family problems that turn to self-harm activities or drug and alcohol use to self-medicate in an attempt to quell their growing emotional angst. This is nothing new, but does appear to be an increasing problem in our area.
As I continued to sit through my four chosen sessions and listen to the questions being asked by parents, I couldn’t help but wonder if moms and dads have invested too much faith in the information and direction being given by outside sources, and not enough faith in their own parental radar and intuition.
In our desire to see our kids to succeed, and in the can’t-be-ignored information surrounding competitive college application processes and consistently increasing cost of tuition, it’s understandable the pull for parents might be to pay more attention to the ideal of what’s expected, over their own instincts about their child’s greatest need. That being said, our LISD teachers and administration are working diligently at providing a top-notch educational experience for our kids.
The bottom line answer for today’s high school student can be found when parents are able to build the kind of connection with their kids that allows for open communication and planning for a future in which both parties agree is a healthy balance of what works in student’s best interest. Finding the balance for your son or daughter takes patience, understanding, and being willing to put your child’s interest and future quality of life above your own agenda, without looking at your neighbor to see what they’re doing with their own kids.
Each child is unique and will not, nor should they, all take the same steps to get to where they can reach their greatest potential and contribute to the world at large. For the sake of our kids, please listen to your gut first when it comes to guiding your child through their adolescence.
Kim Muench is a married mother of five children living in Flower Mound. A certified parenting coach, her passion lies in supporting and encouraging parents of adolescents. To read more of her work, or to learn about her parenting program, go to www.realifeparentguide.com.