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Seventh-Graders Who Skip School
Q: I have two seventh-graders. I just found out that they both have been truant from school for three days. I am at my wits' end with them. I work all day and a sitter takes them to school. How do I make sure that they go to class?
A: Truancy can be a major stumbling block in an adolescent's development -- educationally and emotionally. I am not sure if this truancy is a pattern or something the boys just tried for the first time. When you say you are at your wits' end, I am supposing that there are other issues that have caused problems.
So, I first suggest that you contact your children's counselor and teachers and meet with them and your sons to learn exactly what's happening, and what the school's consequences for truancy are. Then, work out a plan to help them succeed. If your school has a student resource officer, enlist his/her assistance. Let the boys experience the consequences of the truancy.
Set up a consequence if and when this happens again: You will have the truant officer pick them up. Tell them calmly that this will happen if they choose to cut classes.
If there is no truant officer, you might try going to school with them and following them through the whole day. This will usually stop the cutting of classes. Teens just get too embarrassed. I also know this means you would have to take off work and that's difficult, but my experience has been that it works and most parents find it worth taking time off.
If you are experiencing many problems with your children, I urge you to enroll in a parenting class through your school. Family service agencies or sometimes juvenile corrections departments have them. These classes offer support and ideas on how to relate to your children. You can also check out some books or videos from your public library on parenting skills. All parents need help sometimes!
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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.