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How Parents Can Help Their Teens to Achieve at School: Part 1

Updated on February 24, 2013
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Helping Your Teen at School


Parenting a teen at school is different:

Guiding your teen through their high school years is different from previous years, because it requires you to take a step back and let your teen take responsibility for themselves. Now is the time that you should be encouraging more independence and cooperative involvement in the educational process, because the whole point of this period in their lives is about learning to live independently. High school years can be tricky because, as a parent, you need to be able to decide when to intervene, and when to let your child sort out their own problems. While it is important that your teen be more independent, you are still a huge influence in the life of your teenager, and will still need to pilot him/her through the last few years of school.

Remember, that it is important to explain to your teen what your expectations are with regards to their behaviour and responsibilities at school. This can be part of your rules and boundary settings, but do not place any undue pressure on your teen. Expecting them to be a straight 'A' student or graduate top of their class every year is unrealistic. As long as your teen is trying their best and fulfilling their responsibilities, then you, as a parent, should be pleased and proud of their progress. I have had to counsel and put many a teen back together again, after they have fallen apart because of the pressure placed on them by their parents. Do not let a letter ('A', 'B', 'C') destroy your relationship with your teen, and besides according to research: teenagers who have a good relationship with their parents tend to perform better academically.

Teens do need limits, but those limits need to be adjusted as your teen becomes more mature. By giving your teen the space to learn from the natural consequences of their choices and actions, you may find that the respect you are showing them also helps them to become more responsible and cooperative.

So how do you help your teen?

Here is a list of tips that will help you maximize your teen’s educational experience.

Encourage independence. When your teen was younger they needed your help with homework and assignments, because they had not yet gained the skills to problem solve and did not have independent work ethic. However, your teen should be fully equipped to tackle their work on their own, so as a parent it is not your job to do your teen's work for them. Doing their work for them, can actually have a detrimental effect on your teen's self-esteem, as they could feel incompetent if they compare their attempts to your adult efforts. Instead of doing the work for your teen encourage, praise and give them advice, if they ask you. It is important to remember that you should only step in to help when it is clear that they are really struggling or asking for your help. For some parents this could mean that you will have to endure biting your tongue long enough to see if they can push through their challenges, without your intervention. This may be surprising to hear, but children who are frequently aided with homework have lower levels of literacy than those that work independently.

Help your teen to time manage When your teen consistently puts things off, it could be a sign that they are not coping with their workload or work content. I know this sounds strange, but it is that typical ostrich with its head in the sand syndrome: If they can't 'see' their work then surely it can't be there. Your teen will have a greater chance at success if they learn to manage their time and work consistently everyday. Help your teen to estimate how much time they will need to complete homework and assignments. If they need you to help, then assist them with setting up a study schedule.

Teach your teen to establish organisational skills. It is important that your teen has a diary or planner, in order to record what work needs to be completed and also to record the due dates of the tasks. This will also help them with their time management skills. I prefer the daily planners or desk calendars, as it is easier for your child to see what work needs to be completed and by when, in just one glance.

As a parent, you can do quick checks to see if your teen is on track, by checking their planners. Unless you see that your teen is really falling behind with their work, do not comment or nag them about where they are with their tasks. This will just aggravate them, and they will more than likely rebel against the whole system.

Sometimes as a parent, it is better to hand matters over to your teen's teacher, if they continually refuse to work. I have always told the parents of the children I teach, it is not worth starting World War 3 over homework. Do not allow this to impact negatively on your relationship with your child. Ask the teacher for a meeting, with you and your teen. At the meeting state the problems you are having with your child's work performance, and ask the teacher what the best way forward is. It is also better to teach your teen that if their work is not done there will be consequences, and they will have to answer for themselves, to a higher authority (just like it is in the work place).

It doesn’t do your teen any good to complete an assignment and then forget to bring it to school! Teachers do not have much patience for the excuse “I forgot my homework at home.” Get your teen in the habit of packing their homework and other books in the evening, so that all he/she needs to remember in the morning is to grab his bag for school.

If your child struggles with self-discipline, homework can be done in the kitchen or common areas, instead of their room. All social media should be off limits until homework is finished and cell phones are only accessible when homework is done. As harsh as this sounds, it will instill sound organisational skills in your teen, and allow them to concentrate on the task at hand.

Help your teen to manage stress. There will be times in the year that your teen will need more support and help. Anytime when their workload increases, e.g. tests, exams, sporting competitions, your teen is going to need your help to manage their stress levels. Whenever your teen feels upset, overwhelmed or overawed, they are less capable of learning, and are less likely to remember information given in class.

You can help your teen by getting them to follow these quick steps:

Healthy things teens can do to make themselves feel better include:

  1. Encourage them to ask for a hug, as physical contact is proven to soothe stress.
  2. Take a hot bath in candlelight and with music (even boys…yes).
  3. Any form of exercise is an excellent stress relief.
  4. Drink hot beverages, as they help to soothe the nerves.
  5. Let them sit quietly for a few minutes and just 'space out'.
  6. If you have pets, encourage your teen to play with them, as they are also proven to be stress relievers.

Get your teen to list everything that is stressing them. This works two ways:

First: Sometimes problems seem huge, then when you list them, you realise that there weren't as many problems as you had anticipated.

Second: When you have listed problems they feel more concrete, and then are easier to deal with and sort out.

For part 2 of this article please click here.


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