- It’s tricky supervising teens and tweens from a distance.
- My sons manage their schoolwork independently, but I track their grades online.
- They can microwave Easy Mac but need me for healthy meals, rides and occasional homework help.
When you have babies and toddlers, you’re told to keep them at arm’s length. Wth preschoolers, you always keep them within your sight. But when your kids are suddenly teens, is not as clear how much space us parents need to give them.
Once my boys neared middle-school age, parenting started to shift to this weird in-between where I’m hanging around in the background — shouting distance is usually good — but not close enough to hover or invade their space.
And it’s tricky parenting from a distance, lingering somewhere close but not too close. I am still trying to figure out the balance.
As they get older, I have less visibility into their lives
When our sons were in elementary school, my husband and I got accustomed to regular teacher emails, newsletters, messages on the Remind app, and parent-teacher conferences. In middle school, there’s very little of that. In high school, forget it. I don’t even know my tenth grader’s teachers’ names.
As a teen and tween, respectively, my sons are old enough to manage their schoolwork independently. Yet they still need help with the odd algebra assignment or Spanish test or decoding a confusing rubric.
From a distance, I monitor the online grading system, especially for my son with learning challenges to make sure his Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP, is being followed and identify potential issues right away.
When my kids were doing remote learning, I set up camp in the kitchen so I’d be within earshot but not looking over their shoulders or encroaching on their space. I was often called upon for assistance. Then again, there were days when they didn’t need me at all — unless you count doing their laundry or adding more string cheese to the grocery list.
In the same way, my sons can microwave Easy Mac along with the best of them. But if I wasn’t around to offer regular, nutritious meals, they’d probably subsist entirely on fruit snacks and Funyons.
In the summer, they can walk and bike to friends’ houses, but it gets below freezing here in the winter and they need me as their Uber. Where I used to arrange playdates with their friends’ parents, now they make plans all on their own.
During school breaks, I’m not ready to trust them home alone all day or even with their friends for unsupervised hours on end. But they’re much too big for our local day camps and programs, all aimed at the under-10 set.
I’m figuring it out as they grow
Like a lot of middle-school and high-school parents, I’m winging it, texting occasional check-ins, sometimes tracking their location, but trying to give them room to spread their wings, too.
Sure, they can hang out with friends for a couple of hours, but I need to know where they are and who they’re with. And they should touch base with me every so often and be home for dinner.
One afternoon, my son went sledding with a small group of friends. Another parent drove them, and I asked what the mom did while they were on the hill. She sat in the van reading and drinking her coffee.
I’ve been there, casually supervising from a distance.
I’m finding there’s a lot more of this flittering-in-the-middle phase than I ever imagined. Somehow, I used to think my kids would go from needing me nonstop to sudden independence. But we’ve been living in the grey for years.
Parenting older kids is a dichotomy, a constant battle between watching out for them and giving them independence. You’re still the responsible party, but you also don’t want to helicopter or stifle them. It’s not easy, but I’ve dealt with this by staying engaged but firmly in the background unless they ask for my help.