The Collapse of the American family (Part 2 of 2)

Please be sure to read Part 1 posted 5/11/08 before reading
this posting.

While substitute teaching in Dallas public schools elementary
school teachers tell me that far too few kids have parents who show
concern for their kids’ educations. Incomplete class work and
homework as well as behavioral problems frequently are not
addressed when teachers inform parents. Far too few parents attend
parent/teachers conferences.

A fifth grade science teacher told me that a student excelled in
science and aced the practice TAKs tests (the Texas standardized
test that is part of Bush’s less than useless “No child Left
Behind” program). When the student failed the actual TAKs test
the teacher asked why. The student told the teacher that their
parents told them to fail so that they could get free breakfasts,
lunches and afternoon snacks for six weeks during summer school.
The principal blamed the teacher and didn’t believe the
teacher’s explanation.

No doubt education is better in the suburban school districts where
parents have higher incomes and more education. Still many suburban
parents only get involved in their kids schools when they perceive
that their kids aren’t being treated fairly or aren’t being
given high enough grades. Far be it for parents to question their
kids’ academic performance and behavior or lack of

I have made every effort to speak WITH not just TO high school
students that I have taught. So many of them are burned out and
have given up. I keep telling hearing that I am one of the only
adults who really gets what it is like to be a teenager and they
find me one of the few adults that they can really speak with.
Having raised my own son and having been responsible for hundreds
of AFS high school foreign exchange students over the years I will
be one of the first to agree that teenagers need boundaries and
they need authority figures in their lives. However, that doesn’t
mean that they should be treated as prisoners. Most of the high
school students who have confided in me said they wish that they
could speak with their parents the way that they could speak with

I had similar experiences when my son Nathaniel, now aged 30, was
in high school. One Saturday night I drove Nathaniel and three
friends to a Halloween party. Obviously Nathaniel had the most
non-traditional family of the four teenagers in the car. Sadly, he
was the only teenager in the car who was loved unconditionally.

Most parents need to concentrate more attention to their own
parenting skills, their relationship with their kids and their
kids’ educations rather than judging the parenting skills of
others based upon others sexual orientation or gender identity!

What suggestions do I have for concerned LGBT parents? First,
parents of elementary school kids should get to know their
children’s teachers and they should attend every parent/teacher
conference available. Join the PTA; review your kids’ class work
and assignments as well as checking their homework. If you have
concerns speak with teachers by phone or via note and ask what you
can do to help your kids get the most out of school. Don’t let
your sexual orientation or gender identity keep you from getting
involved in your children’s education!

Middle school and high school students naturally seek more
independence from their parents. This is natural and has nothing to
do with you. They tend to rely more on friends as role models. Most
teens don’t see their parents as being “cool.” However, work
hard to remain connected. Attend parent/teacher conferences, meet
with their guidance counselors, join the PTA and review their
homework and talk about what they are learning in school. Show
personal interest in their studies. As well as the other aspects of
their lives!

Talk with your teenagers, not just at them. They are not the enemy
but they are changing, exploring and experiencing. Like you did
when you were their age all of their decisions won’t be perfect.
Most high school students can get any illegal drug they want in
five minutes or less. The odds of your teenager graduating from
high school a virgin are slim. The key is to keep the lines of
communication open at all times. Be available to talk with them.
You cannot make an issue out of everything they do or you will lose
their trust and they will hide their lives from you.

Here is another important suggestion. Get to know your kids’
friends and make them welcome in your home. I was fortunate in that
Nathaniel’s friends were perfectly okay with Nathaniel having a
gay dad. In fact, I was the cool parent. His friends enjoyed
hanging out at our place. I am still close with several of

Listening without overreacting is critical in keeping the
communication flowing. The better your communication is with your
teenager the closer your relationship will be. All kids need limits
and you are the parent. Still, everything cannot be an issue. Each
child is different so they don’t all need the same rules and
restrictions. Most importantly, unconditional love goes a long

Turn off the TVs, computers, iPods, cell phones and games and spend
some time sharing meals, family activities and talking on a regular
basis. In that way you will be able to avoid the all too prevalent
collapse experienced in far too many American families!