The School Battlefield

Katie Watts Renell's picture

The battle lines get drawn every August as the school year draws nearer. As parents brace themselves for impact, teenagers, arm themselves with iphones and full backpacks, ready for the onslaught of the upcoming school year. Often times, kids and parents end up fighting each other, when they feel like they should be allies in this war being waged in the fall, winter and spring.

As therapists, we are often in the middle of this battle. We see parents on one side, trying desperately to get the kids to focus on schoolwork, grades, and a successful year of education. Kids on the other side, trying so very hard to navigate the social scene, and not step on any landmines that will completely undermine the rest of their days in the school system.  It is so important to recognize BOTH sides and viewpoints if a cease fire is ever to be reached.

The social aspect of school can easily be overlooked by parents, and yet, it is one of the most impactful parts of any student’s school life. The start of school brings with it a flood of pictures, posts and stories on social media, and while often times, kids are happy to see their friends, they can also be torn by some angst because of some pictures of a party they weren’t invited to on their friends Snapchat story. Friendships can often change year to year, but particularly over the summer, and it can be difficult to transition back. The pressure to fit in, and maintain a group of friends can be overwhelming at times, and that can be overlooked by parents quite a bit. The fear of being ostracized is very real, very powerful, and a daily struggle for many. With the amount of pain kids can feel on a social level, it’s no wonder that the last thing they are focused on is studying for that test. They are worried about rumors being spread about them, or seeing their recent ex in the hallways, or worrying about being shut out of their friend group. It’s impossible to fully comprehend what kids today face on a daily basis, especially with the social media landscape changing as fast I type this blog.

Parents, on the other hand, are not wrong to be worried about grades, homework, and school performance. It is very important to focus on the academics, and succeeding in school. Parents want only the best futures they can imagine for their kids. They want great grades, so that all the best colleges in the country will want their kids to enroll there. Parents know that good grades open doors of opportunity for the future, and make it much easier to take that next step toward independence.

BOTH sides have valid viewpoints! It is so important for parents and kids to be able to recognize each others struggles, and worry thoughts. Be able to validate one another’s viewpoints and support each other on all sides of the school battlefield. That being said, your child may keep you in the dark about their daily struggles with the social side of things. If that’s the case, I’m hoping that this will help in simply increasing your empathy and help you to remember what they are facing on a daily basis. We’ve all been there!