The school year (or, as many parents know it, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”) is here. For high school kids, that means Homecoming is just around the corner. Kids love Homecoming – the fun activities of Homecoming Week, the football game AND the dance. It’s the first big social event of the new school year and a great time to show school spirit, enjoy friends, dress up, go out and make some memories. As parents, we want our kids to make the kind of memories they can look back on with smiles and laughter, not tears and embarrassment. So, whether this is your child’s first or last high school Homecoming (or one in between!), here are some tips for he lping you parent your teen through this high school rite of passage.
- First, get informed. Kids don’t always get all the details, so make sure to double-check all the important information. Log on to the school website or make a phone call up to the school office. Find out what activities are planned for Homecoming Week, when they start and end, where they’re being held, who’s allowed to be there, and what the rules/policies are for the events. Even if this isn’t your kid’s first Homecoming experience, remember that school policies can change, so things may be different this year.
- Armed with all the details, find a time and place, free of distractions (like younger siblings, television or cell phones), to sit down and talk with your high schooler. Ask what experiences and memories he or she wants to have and take away from Homecoming. Listen more than talk. Share what you’ve learned about the week’s events and make sure your teen knows both the school’s expectations and yours.
- Next, help your child come up with a plan. Which events will he or she attend? Get everything on the family calendar so you don’t lose track of what’s happening and when. Who is your child going with and who’ll drive? What’s your teen’s curfew for the football game and the dance? And, last but not least, what does your teen need (new clothes?), how much money will all of this cost and who’s paying?
- Assume nothing. Be very specific when it comes to your expectations as a parent, and make sure your teen knows what it’s okay to do and what’s not okay for Homecoming. Make sure you talk about all the fun things your child CAN do during Homecoming Week. Then, tell your teen you want him or her to be safe – physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. That means any illegal activities are off the table. No drinking, drug use, vandalism or unsafe driving. Remind your high schooler that texts, pictures and video shared via all electronic means (including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat) aren’t private and will leave a permanent “digital footprint.” So make it clear to your teen that he or she is not to engage in activities that are physically, morally and/or spiritually dangerous, and is not to photograph or video anyone (including himself or herself!) doing those things or forward any pictures or video of others doing those things. In other words, if your teen wouldn’t want an image or words shared in front of parents or grandparents, he or she shouldn’t be doing it or recording others doing it.
- Have a “fail safe” plan. Let your teen know that you understand things can sometimes get out of control, no matter how good a person’s intentions are. Agree on a “code word” your teen can either text you or can give you in a phone call that lets you know you need to come and get him or her, with no lectures and no immediate questions asked. You can review what happened later – your teen’s safety is your first priority. Make sure you’re available and “reachable” at all times during the week. If you absolutely have to be out of touch, make sure your teen has the names and phone numbers of other trusted adults who know the “fail safe” plan.
- Get in touch with the parents of the other kids your child is attending Homecoming events with. There definitely is strength in numbers. Make sure everyone is in agreement on things like curfews and underage drinking. If your teen is anything like mine were, you’ll get some eye rolling and teeth gnashing when you insist on talking with other parents. But that’s okay. Being clear shows your child that you care.
- Finally, make time in your schedule during Homecoming Week to check in with your teen to see how it’s going. Remember, your teen won’t be home with you much longer. So don’t pass up opportunities to laugh with him or her, and make and share good memories together!