High School Life

Recently we had two freshman boys join us for Shabbos lunch. They attend are both “out of towners” who attend a boy’s yeshiva in the area. I listened to my 6th grade son ask them questions about dorm life, the daily schedule, what’s expected of them with school work, and what they do in their free time. It got to thinking about my own experiences in public high school.

Aside from the duel curriculum, the school life of my children, is pretty much the same as what I went through from kindergarten through middle school. It dawned on me, during this Shabbos lunch, that my children’s high school experiences will be radically different than what I went through.

My high school had multiple cliques and sub-cultures and plenty of sporting and extra-curricular activities to join in. Homework and reports were fairly uncommon and while cheating and skipping class were fashionable, I never subscribed to these temptations.

Every weekend night (well, only Saturdays once I started keeping Shabbos) was spent either at a party in someone’s home, going to an “all ages” concert, or hanging out in public areas in downtown Wichita, KS just chilling, listening to music, and trying not to cause too much trouble. While my punk friends and I looked rather fierce and counter-culture, we were all pretty much harmless.

These boys told me that their Motzei Shabbos activities usually include basketball and pizza. Sometimes they’ll go to a friend’s house to watch movies or just hang out. I am sure there are other students that do more “incriminating” activities.

I’m curious, if anyone with high school or post high school children can offer some insights into parenting issue during the yeshiva high school years?

13 comments on “High School Life

  1. Thx for posting these ideas about how to deal with our high school kids. I’ve got 4 right now!

    I don’t agree with Judy Reznick. Our girls here in the UK are under a lot of pressure from 15 to get into the “right” Sem (at age 16 for 2 years). So although they don’t have to work hard to get into the right college they are still under stress.

    Any advice from someone from someone for our son who is 15, smokes, has dyslexia and ADHD. He’s on meds and attending high school but then he just wants to hang out (in the park?) every Shabbos afternoon/after school and doesn’t ever feel comfortable going to a minyan anywhere. He’s the only boy! Can someone say been there and done that and offer some advice? We feel we’ve tried everything but nothing we can do now seems to make him feel good about himself as a Yid….!

  2. I think that teens from homes that emphasize the importance of getting into a top college (whether they are Modern Orthodox, non-religious or even non-Jewish), face a lot of pressure. High school can be a very stressed-out, difficult four years. This is compounded by two more facts: 1) most teenagers have no money and no way of earning any money, so they walk around broke most of the time; 2) too many adults dislike and envy teenagers, which amazes most teens, because with their low esteem and their even lower funds, they can’t figure out why anybody would ever envy them (they themselves can’t wait to not be a teenager any longer).

    Ironically, I think the frum/haredi teenagers have it (relatively) easiest. They’re not aiming to get into the most competitive universities in the country, so they don’t have to join the swim team and the school newspaper and the band, or do summer internships in Peru and Mongolia. They don’t have to worry about a bad score on the SAT or whether to sign up for AP Physics.

    My three sons stayed in their three different “right-wing” high schools an extra four years for Beis Medrash: for them high school was practically all Gemara, all the time. My four daughters did not do well academically in their “right-wing” high schools, which did not (unlike other girls’ high schools) push the girls toward seminary and/or college. The main post-high-school goal was marriage.

    In any high school, you’re going to find kids who are miserable because the “in” or “cool” clique doesn’t accept them. Gone to extremes, this can lead teenagers to drugs or even suicide. The main way we adults can help teenagers is by realizing how difficult the teenage years really are, and by doing our best to be supportive if our teens need our help.

  3. High school life is tough for both boys and girls. The best that a parent can do is hope that your children find mentors and friends, while enduring homework, tests, etc, and being active in extracurricular activities as well. IIRC, many psychologists are of the POV that spirituality is not on most teens’ radar until they are either in 11th or 12th grade. That’s why a year or two in Israel, either in a “gap” program in a yeshiva or seminary or in a Beis Medrash, for many, but certainly not all, has a large role in untapping the spiritual reservoirs in our children’s hearts and minds.

  4. Belle, I think you hit the essence of teenage parenting on the head: Independence vs Control. And in the end of the day, we surely want our children to develop a healthy independence.

    Perhaps davening is the perfect remedy because there we need to cede our independence and sense of control to Hashem, who is really in control.

  5. So…back to the topic….

    I think the hardest thing about parenting at this age is to balance being involved in their life with letting go of the details. Meaning, you still have to know what’s going on with them and help them stay on top of their homework and schoolwork, etc., and know who their friends are and what they do (generally) in their free time. At the same time, though, they need more independence and privacy, so there’s a limit as to how much you can really find out what’s really going on. This is excruciaing, and it’s the beginning of the stage of “letting go.”

    If there’s trust then the older child will not want to disappoint his/her parent. So it’s important to keep the relationship positive – or at least civil and respectful where they are out of line, and to daven. I find I daven for them more now than when they were young. Perhaps earlier I had the illusion that I had more control, whereas now I see that I really do not have control over them.

    But this would be the same for frum or not frum children. The basic childrearing points are the same.

  6. You made my day, Mark!

    Based on the “(ahem)”, you need patience with me. Since October 2008, I’ve spent much of my time oscillating among three poles in Indiana: Indianapolis (home, 3 hours drive from work), Goshen (work) and South Bend (weekday apartment). So I may eventually develop an interesting take on the levels of golus.

  7. The newly added comment preview is dedicated in honor of long time Beyond BT commentator and sometime author (ahem) – Bob Miller.

    The only condition is that you keep on working on your midda of patience.

  8. Many other blogs have a preview feature (not tiny print!!) to use for inspection/editing before sending in a comment. I often miss my typos here until I send the comment in. My midda of patience needs work.

  9. Grammar and spelling are reflections on the writer and, in no way, reflect the views of BeyondBT.

    Thanks, the only one I caught was “listended”. Should be “listened”.

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