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How Can I Help My Teenager with School?

As the beginning of the school year approaches, many parents are wondering how they can help their teenage children with their schoolwork. This becomes an especially troubling issue, now that it looks like most schools will begin the academic year with remote or hybrid models that rely on a student’s ability to work independently. As a parent of a 17-year old, I wanted to get some additional information to help myself and those of you who can use it. After doing some research, here is a list of tips that parents with teens can use to help their children.

  • If they are struggling, listen to find out why. What a person says and does not say are all feedback for us. Chances are good that there is some other reason than “laziness.”

  • Point out positives and ask them how it feels when something goes well. Try to keep a warm but neutral tone, since teens might think that if parents make a “big deal” out of one positive thing, we might “expect it” every time.

  • When things aren’t going well, ask them what they intend on doing to fix it. Then hold them accountable as adults for doing what they say they will do.

  • Help them to manage their time by teaching them to create a weekly calendar with reminders. If their school uses Google, they have access to a Google weekly calendar that can sync to their cell phones.

  • Help them to use other technology to remind them when assignments are due. One article I read mentions Famjama and Cozi as helpful tools.

  • Encourage them to charge their cell phones in another room if they are having difficulty getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

  • Use your child’s teachers and school counselors as allies. At the beginning of the school year, I find out who my son’s teachers and counselors are and create an email group. I send an email introducing myself and asking them to provide regular feedback about my son’s progress and to make note of any behaviors I need to address.

  • Use your school’s parent portal to keep track of your child’s grades. Ask your child’s guidance counselor how to get access to the portal, and to other technology (Google classroom and other accounts) your child’s teachers use.

  • Use supports offered by your schools. Many of the supports you need may be offered directly by your child’s school or offered at a discount through a school-community partnership. If you are unsure of who to talk to, a good start is your child’s guidance counselor or your school district’s director of pupil personnel services. You can also check your school district’s website. There is usually a section just for parents and families.

  • Create structure for your teen if necessary and set limits. Telling your teen that a part-time job might be out of the question if he can’t get his schoolwork done, for example, might serve as a motivator for your teen to be more productive.

  • Allow them to experience consequences – natural or otherwise. If your child chooses to go to bed late, make sure that you are there to get him or her up on time in the morning. As adults in training, they need to understand that there are natural consequences for their actions as well, and that their supervisor will still expect them to arrive to work on time no matter what time they chose to go to bed.

  • Use other adults as supports. Not one of us has all the answers, and there still is no training manual for child rearing.

  • Offer incentives for behaving responsibly and for completing school work as needed.

  • Talk to your teen about successes, failures, and struggles you had. Do this in a way that does not scare your teen, but rather do it so your teen sees you as a person and understands that s/he’s not going this alone. Many teens feel like they are alone. Remind them that they are not.

  • Lead by example. As parents, we will expect our teens to act responsibly, manage their time, and do their best. Teens need to see that we are serving as effective role models in these areas. If we don’t serve as good role models, this will add to our stress because our teens will call us on it.

  • Have reasonable expectations of your teen. Involve them in setting these expectations as much as you can.

  • If your child is struggling academically, work to get resources if you can’t directly be of help. A tutor might be just what your child needs. Having a qualified tutor not only can help your child, but it can also eliminate any power struggle between you and your teen.

From one parent and educator to another, I hope these tips help many of you to work more effectively with your teenage children. If there is anything that we at IES can do to help you, your teenage child, or any of your other children, please feel free to reach out to us.

About the Author:

John Marderosian is the founder, owner, and operator of Innovative Education Solutions. He has more than 15 years of experience improving student outcomes and closing achievement gaps, as well as increasing the capacity of teachers to accomplish the same with their students.

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