The Lockout

Remember when your kid wanted you to take off from work to have lunch with him in the school cafeteria? He even wanted you to meet his friends! Those days are long gone! Now you've been subjected to your teen's number one safety procedure - The Lockout! This is not to be confused with public school "lockdowns" where no one can go in or out. Your teen can come and go as he pleases. Instead, it is YOU who cannot go in. You see, teens don't want parents, so they pretend that they don't have them. It seems they skipped biology class when the fertilization process and growth of the fetus was explained. They don't want these critters called "parents" hovering and snooping around, particularly in their domain - SCHOOL! If you pass your teen in the hall, he might glance in your direction, and then turn away like you are a locker on the wall. This is because he's made it clear. You heard it've been Locked Out!

It's because of this that parents start to drop off the face of the earth when their kids matriculate into middle school. You see, parents don't want to be invisible people. If they don't feel needed, they stay away. I know this because I'm the PTA president for my daughter's middle school. I was told that finding parent volunteers in secondary schools is like finding a lone needle or two in a haystack. I was determined to find a way to get the parents back "in". It took some effort, but we had over 125 parent volunteers last year.

There are many ways parents can be involved in their teen's school. Those who continue to volunteer realize that it's even more important to be involved once their child reaches his teen years. This is the time when things might go awry, and in a bigger way.

It's imperative that teens understand that their parents are not "checking up" on them, but helping out because they care about their teen's education and special interests. Middle school and high school students are eager to be independent. They are capable of designing t-shirts, decorating for events, and fundraising. You will probably be given a supervisory role. If older students know that you value their opinions, they'll welcome you. Joining the PTSA or booster clubs that your teen is involved in will enable you to find out where help is needed. Plus, you can meet the parents of some of the other teens this way. Be sure to subscribe to the school's online newsletter or mass e-mails. This way, if your teen is not talking about what is going on, you will still be "in the know." Studies show that your involvement in your teen's school does make a difference. So, don't drop out when she turns thirteen!

If you're still skeptical, perhaps these simple tips will help you get by:

  • Safety is in numbers - volunteer when there are lots of other parents helping too...then your teen can easily pretend he doesn't know you.
  • When chaperoning a trip, sit directly behind the bus driver - as far from your teen as possible.
  • Stay away from the classrooms. Your days of tying shoes are over!
  • Helping at a dance? Hide behind the buffet table and carefully blend into the gym wall padding.
  • Avoid the lunchroom, unless selling pizza to hungry teens taking finals - then they'll love you!
  • Just say hi to the friends. Teens don't say hi to their parents, but they do say hi to their friend's parents.

Although your teen doesn't seem to want you around, your mere presence at school functions, sporting events, and concerts is extremely important. If you're taking on a more involved role and stepping in to help, she really does appreciate that you care enough to take the time to do so. If she doesn't tell you now, she ten years or so.


  • "Out here, the parents of the orchestra kids work at functions for other events (i.e. choirs or thespian productions) so we can enjoy our own kids at their concerts. The same goes for sports activities. I have a football player and will have to take a turn at basketball games or swim meets. You get to meet other parents and get to know the parents of their friends-much to their dismay!"
    Darleen Bussy - Indianapolis, IN
  • "I read the newsletter to find events that I know my kids are involved or interested in. My kids don't mind me being around because I don't smother them."
    Joan Pagliocco - Basking Ridge, NJ