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Unmonitored Seventh-Grader Needs Support

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: Our work keeps my husband and me away from home till evening, so my seventh-grade son is pretty much on his own. His report cards are very bad, although he assures us he is doing well. We don't have anyone to watch him everyday, and we feel guilty. What can we do to help his grades improve?

A: I honestly don't know what you can do to help your son with your present work schedules. My suggestions would involve a lot of monitoring and perseverance. At the moment you have no way of really imposing consequences and seeing that he follows through.

In the best of worlds, you and your husband would have different shifts so that one of you would be around to set up study times, check with the school, and give him the attention and boundaries that you are unable to provide at this moment. I urge you to check into that possibility. If your son continues to go unmonitored, he could quickly become involved in drugs, cutting classes, vandalism, etc.

My only other suggestion is to look into getting him a big brother or a mentor from the community. You might check with the school about whether your community offers such programs. What about after-school programs for teens? I strongly recommend that you and/or your husband take a day off and check into all the possibilities -- both for your sakes and his.

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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.

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