parenting tweens and teens

Louis C.K. Hates the Common Core and Standardized Testing, and So Do I

Written on May 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm , by

I’m a Louis C.K. fan—and now an even bigger one after his Twitter rant blasting the confounding math homework his third-grader was bringing home, and bashing Common Core and standardized testing to boot. “The teachers are great. But it’s changed in recent years, ” he tweeted. “It’s all about these tests. It feels like a dark time.”

It is. My daughter’s in seventh grade, which, as any New York City parent can tell you, is a fraught year. She just finished the state math and language arts tests that will determine what high school she gets into come 2015. But wait, there’s more. There are eight so-called specialized high schools requiring their own admission test (SHSAT) in October (they ignore the state exams). My buddy Lisa, whose son went through the ordeal last year, just informed me that if Nat is gonna take the SHSAT, she’s gotta do test prep, mainly because everybody else is and she’ll get blown out of the water otherwise. So she just started weekly two-hour sessions with five other 13-year-olds, half this spring, the rest in the fall.

Ouch. And I’m not just talking about my pocketbook. We all want the best for our kids, and I don’t want her excluded from a great school when she’s plenty smart just because she didn’t keep up with the test-prep Joneses. But I’m a huge believer in public schools and equal opportunity, and I feel like a hypocrite for shelling out beaucoup bucks to boost her scores. It sucks. Or, as Louis put it, schooling and testing have become a “massive stressball.” You agree?

Parenting Dilemmas: Where Do I Find Resources for Raising a Teen?

Written on April 18, 2014 at 9:49 am , by

By Jill Caryl Weiner

Last weekend, I attended the Brooklyn Baby & Family Expo for work. I must say, as a parent of a teenage daughter and a tween son, I was amazed at the incredible array of resources that were pulled together for this event. There was a panel of pediatricians, demos of the latest gear, advisors on family estate planning, book signings, local and long-distance businesses—from preschools to play spaces to a start-up offering the latest technology in baby spoons.

I think it’s fantastic, but I can’t help but wonder about the resources for parents of tweens and teens. It seems like parents’ magazines pay less attention to the issues and needs of older kids, and some people may even think we have it all figured out. Really? Do we have it all figured out?

I called my friend Jessica to get her take on this. I met Jess 14 years ago, just a month or two after my daughter was born, at a new-parent support group. Arlene Eisenberg, who cocreated the What to Expect book series, led a weekly Q&A to help us struggling new parents and to keep in tune with our concerns. I made some of my closest mom friends through that support group. Before I met these women, I admit, I felt pretty lost.

Jess and I compared this issue of resources—or lack thereof—for teens and tweens vs. babies and came up with a few ideas. Here are some differences.

Brooklyn Baby and Family Expo | Photo by Kelley Brusco

1. Money. The number of businesses out there targeting parents with babies is mind-boggling. For teens and tweens there seem to be lots of test-prep companies as well as camps, but for babies products and services are all across the board. This is actually good news for us parents of older kids. I mean, who needs all that stuff crowding up our homes? Plus the businesses we need are out there, they’re just not as obvious.

2. Shared Issues vs. Specialized Concerns. A lot of new parents share the same concerns about their babies, from feeding and sleeping issues to diapering and teething. But the needs of tweens and teens are more specific to the individual person, as they are discovering who they are and want to be. Parents’ concerns are no longer focused only on the basic necessities but on more specialized issues. Your daughter might require extra help in math or have to wear a retainer, or she might want to volunteer to help the elderly, but those concerns are very specific to her.

3. Bigger Kids, Bigger Problems. The problems we faced as new parents caring for these tiny fragile people seemed momentous. But now most of those issues seem so contained compared to teen and tween problems. Even if it’s just parental anxiety about what might happen (because actually things are going pretty okay), that’s pretty stressful. Parents of older kids may worry about issues ranging from overuse of the Internet, to bullying, to eating disorders, to dating and homework stress and so much more. It can seem like we don’t have anywhere to turn for answers.

Brooklyn Baby and Family Expo | Photo by Kelley Brusco

4. Support Systems. Even though there are a ton of resources available for new parents, these newbies often feel isolated. They don’t realize what’s available, and that’s why an expo can be such a great resource. Parents of tweens and teens have the friendships we’ve made over the years through our children. We have their schools as support systems. Schools offer clubs and teams and have Parent-Teacher Associations gathering experts to speak on issues we’re concerned with. Some recent meetings in high schools around my neighborhood have dealt with eating disorders, bullying—both kid-on-kid and kid-on-parent as well as cyberbullying—saving for college and substance abuse. School counselors are available to meet with students and/or their parents one-on-one.

I really enjoyed the expo. It was like being in a time machine and seeing my husband and kids when this whole parenting world was new and we needed everything. As for life with teens and tweens, Jess and I figured out that although we don’t have it all figured out, we have support systems, including friendships and schools, that are kind of like mini expos we can go to anytime. They’re unmistakable resources that make our lives a lot easier.

Jill Caryl Weiner is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared in Mom365.com, New York Magazine, Time Out New York Kids and The New York Times.

4.9.14: Wednesday Wisdom

Written on April 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm , by

Wednesday Wisdom

Your Kid’s Homework Load Isn’t Too Much, New Study Suggests

Written on March 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm , by

So the kids are all right. That, at least, is the conclusion of a new study on homework by the Brookings Institution, which says that the average homework load for 9- to 17-year-olds has pretty much stayed the same over the last 30 years. This, of course, flies in the face of all the horror stories we’ve heard about kids drowning in nightly homework, of exhausted parents who can’t cope, and of families fraying at the seams because of it all.

So what to think? My own experience, or I should say that of my 12-year-old, is that she consistently has at least 2 or 3 hours every night—about double what the Brookings study found. She’s not suffering under the load—I half-jokingly describe it as “only mildly soul-crushing”—and our family isn’t falling apart, though it’s still too much. Then again, she’s in an honors program at a public school that’s something of a learning factory, but that was the choice we made, since the alternative was a school that wouldn’t have challenged her enough.

I’m grateful for the excellent education she’s getting. And the homework isn’t busywork. It does what I believe take-home assignments are supposed to do: that is, reinforce the lessons learned in class. So I gripe a little, but not too much. At the same time, I don’t dismiss the complainers as whiners. But here’s the thing—the gap between the homework horror stories and what the study found is a pretty big one, which says plenty about the inequality of education nationwide. That’s a much bigger problem, and one that won’t be easily solved.

Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Video: These Moms Learn What Their Kids Really Think About Them

Written on January 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm , by

As a parent, you constantly have doubts and concerns about how to raise your kids no matter how many parenting books you may read. But when these worrying moms listened to what their kids really thought about them, it was priceless.