By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
3:37 PM EDT, April 2, 2013
From our panel of staff contributors
Assuming you've already asked him why not, and he's been his usual sullen, uncommunicative self, then no. Eventually, he'll relent. If you sneak in and sit in the back, he'll find out (they always do) and be even more resentful than usual. With age, this, too, will pass.
I'd ask why first. All parents are an embarrassment to their high school student. Some are more so than others, however, and you need to assess your own behavior honestly. My mother, for example, was always at my high school band concerts and my sister's choral concerts; the tinkling of her charm bracelet always told us up onstage where she was in the audience. But she behaved: walked in, sat down, listened, walked out. No talk, no squawk, no drama. That's the way to do it.
"Why" is key: Are you the parents who run to the front of the stage, wave madly and video everything every second? (Perhaps it's time to dial it down.) Is this child typically shy, and any such event is extreme torture? Sneak in. But get the conversation going. We once watched my quiet stepson play soccer from a hill near the field. His playing style said a lot about his approach to a lot of things: Hang back, assess the situation, then make a well thought-out move, versus diving headlong into anything.
This son's request is incredibly common, says family counselor Carl Pickhardt, author of "Surviving Your Child's Adolescence: How to Understand, and Even Enjoy, the Rocky Road to Independence" (Jossey-Bass). Particularly among freshmen and sophomore students.
"He has just entered a whole new social world and he's at the bottom of a big age heap, and he wants to get established and act independently and catch hold socially," says Pickhardt. "To do that, you do not want a lot of public interaction with your parents."
And while there's a chance your behavior is a particular embarrassment, lots of "Bravos!" and standing ovations, his discomfort likely has nothing to do with you.
"Parents need to remember not to take this personally," Pickhardt says. "This is not a rejection. This is a kid protecting his very fragile sense of independence against what he feels would be an embarrassing social situation were he to be seen with his parents."
Now, what to do with that.
Tell your child how happy it makes you to see him perform, Pickhardt suggests. " 'That said, we don't' want to create discomfort for you. Let's talk about where we might sit out of the way, how we'll limit our contact, where we might pick you up to take you home.'
"Part of the kid wants his parents there," he says. "If he can have his parents there in a way that doesn't cause social discomfort, and he can be independent with the older band members, everyone's happy."
Don't bother pointing out how many other parents are usually in attendance, Pickhardt says.
"Rather than make a comparison to other parents and other kids, all you have to say is, 'This is a public performance, and we'd love to be part of the public,' " he suggests.
Have a solution? Your in-laws toss profanity around with abandon. Should you ask them to tone it down when your elementary-age kids visit them? Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.
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