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How Involved Should Parents Be?


President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton held a White House Conference on Teenagers to discuss how parents can help their children successfully manage the difficult teen years. One goal of the conference, according to Mrs. Clinton, was to "help more parents remain involved in their teenagers' lives." How much parental involvement do teenagers want? Teens shared their views with MARY REESE BOYKIN.



14, freshman, Fairfax High School

My parents cannot spend all that much time with me because they have to work. When I leave for school, they are barely arriving at home. When I come home, they are leaving for work. I know that they care about me because they work this hard to provide me with shelter, food and clothing.

Sometimes, we have dinner together. That's when we catch up on what we've missed. We talk about school, their jobs, events.

I feel more special during these times because I have their attention. Even though they are not there as much as I'd like, they still show me their love for me.



17, senior, King/Drew Medical Magnet High School

It gives us kids an extra drive to know that someone is in our corner, that someone else wants us to succeed. A person can stay strong and do it alone, but having support makes a difference.

My grandmother has been my mother and my father. Throughout the years, she has encouraged me to stay on top of my schoolwork. When I didn't do as well as I expected, she would say, "That's all right. You can do better the next time."

She has been involved in taking me to church. If she had not done that, I don't know where I would be. My faith sustains me; I keep God first, and I know that I can achieve my goals.

This fall, I'll leave home to attend Xavier University, a historically black college, in New Orleans. My grandmother wanted me to stay near home for college. It wasn't that I wanted to leave home, but I want to become a trauma surgeon. Xavier is ranked No. 1 among schools whose African American graduates enter medical school. With the help of my Upward Bound coordinator, I convinced my grandmother that Xavier is the best school for me. She showed her love for me by putting my interest above her preference.



16, sophomore, University High School

Teenagers need parental involvement otherwise they feel neglected or feel that whatever they do is not good enough. My mom is very strict. She is genuine in her need to protect me from heartbreak and the dangers of life.

I want my mom involved in everything. I tell her everything--what happened at school and which girls I am talking to. But I don't want her to be overly protective. At times, I push her away. But she keeps coming back. Her influence is always there, even if I am reluctant to admit it.Maybe I am just confused. I want her involvement on the one hand. I don't want so much of it on the other. The perfect solution is for her to be involved, but leave me alone, let me find myself and see what life is like.



15, freshman, Locke High School

My mom is very involved in my life. She talks to me all the time. She tells me that she is proud of me and that I am smart. She tells me to stay focused and stay in school. We do many things together: sing, go to the beach, give family gatherings.

When it comes to boys, my mom tells me to be smart, choose wisely, be into my books. In fact, she often says, "Books first; boys later." She has helped me to realize that if a boy can talk a girl into having sex with him, the girl can get pregnant. Then the girl's life is changed forever. My mom teaches me to carry myself like a lady so that I will be respected.

I am grateful that my mom is involved in my life because I have some friends whose parents are uninvolved. These friends smoke weed and have sex and, one has had numerous abortions. They have a place to live, but they have no parental involvement, so they do what they want, Often, they take the wrong path.

My mother puts her children first. I am grateful for everything about my mother.



17, junior, Woodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach

My biological mother is deceased. My father is not in my life. Kanika and I have been friends since pre-school. A year ago, when I needed a place to live, Kanika's mom took me in.

She is a mother to me. She cares for me, shows me affection and love. I feel secure and safe. She has taught me that love crosses color lines. I am white; she is black. Some of my white friends feel that I have betrayed them by living with a black family, but my "mom" tells me to move on with my life, stay strong and hold my head high.

My "mom" does set limits. I have a 9 p.m. school night curfew and a midnight curfew for weekends. I go to youth group meetings at church on Wednesdays and Fridays, and I attend Sunday school. My involvement in church makes me feel like a stronger person.

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