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/ Jan 09, 2018

Six Tips to Support Teens in School

Parents

This piece was written by Joanna Lee Williams, PhD, Associate Professor, The University of Virginia Curry School of Education.

Support School From Home

You care about your child’s education. There are plenty of tips on how to work with your teen’s teacher, but sometimes the reality is, connecting with teachers may be difficult, especially in middle and high school. Whether it’s a matter of time and scheduling, or other, more personal reasons that make relationships with your teen’s school challenging, providing support remains important. Here are 6 tips on how to support your teen’s education, right from your home.

1) Set and Share High Expectations

Talking with teens about your expectations for their achievement and helping them understand the value of school (which may be hard for them to see) can go a long way.  In fact, when parents have high educational expectations kids do better in school. Ongoing communication about the importance of school, including asking about their educational goals, can help teens find meaning in their  education.

2) Make Real-World Connections

In the day-to-day of essays, tests, and homework, it can be hard for teens to see the value of school as they envision the future.  So in addition to helping them make connections between school right now and future goals, talk with them about how topics in school are connected to current events and experiences. Whether you focus on their personal interests, career goals, or the everyday usefulness of what they’re learning, making personal connections between school and life can help teens stay engaged.

Discussion Tip
Sometimes it’s hard for teens to see the value of school. Taking the time to make sure they understand its importance can make a real difference.
In addition to cultural beliefs that reinforce the value of school, your own family story, or the stories of current relatives or ancestors, may be a source of inspiration for your child.

3) Be an At-home “Hall Monitor”

While you don’t have to pace the halls of your home, there’s lots of evidence showing parental monitoring is positively related to success in school. Parental monitoring includes knowing what school and social activities your children are involved in, who they hang out with, and where they spend time when they’re not home. Being an effective monitor involves being the kind of parent whose  teens know they can share what’s going on in their lives with you.

4) Help Them Manage the Load

As tweens move into middle school the workload can pile up, and it just increases when they get to high school. It’s important to empower teens so they can learn how to manage the load themselves. Figuring out a basic routine can help. Work with your teens to figure out what this looks like at home, and check in to hold them accountable. Note, this does not mean you should help teens do homework. In fact, parental assistance with homework in adolescence can actually do more harm than good, even when we have the best intentions. Instead, provide support so teens can manage workloads on their own.

5) Help Them Understand Effort Leads to Results

Sometimes young people mistakenly believe they don’t have the potential to do well in school.  They may even have absorbed undermining messages that they aren’t capable.  Or, it could be that they are stuck in a subject and begin telling themselves a disempowering “story.”  First, help them know there will be subjects that come easier and others that won’t be a natural fit. Paying attention to this will help them learn more about their interests and capabilities.  But they must learn that they can improve in all subjects when they set their mind to it and put in the work.  Sometimes one word can be used to help them realize that improvement is possible. The word “yet” added to a sentence can change its meaning fully. “ I’m no good at math” becomes “I’m no good at math, yet.”

6) Inspire Them through Stories and Traditions

There is great diversity in the ethnic heritage celebrated across families, and drawing upon cultural strengths and stories can keep young people motivated to do well in school. In addition to cultural beliefs that reinforce the value of school, your own family story, or the stories of current relatives or ancestors, may be a source of inspiration for your child.  While you don’t want to foster feelings of guilt or insufficiency by focusing only on “success stories”, you may help your teen find purpose and persistence by creating personal connections to family members or cultural traditions that convey the value of education.

We know you care about your teen’s well-being, and for much of adolescence, that means caring about how your teen is faring in school. While not always easy, connecting with your teen at home is one of the best ways of providing support in school.

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Supporting Your Teen’s School Success

When parents are involved in schools and support learning, young people are more successful. Click through to review benefits of getting involved with your child’s education.

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The Benefits of School-Parent Partnerships

When teachers and families partner together, teens develop important social and emotional skills and have better academic performance. Look for ways to partner with your teen’s school. This may include volunteering, meeting teachers and administrators, or supporting school events.

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Provide Support at Home

You can be involved in your teen’s education from home. Talk regularly with your teen about school and learning. Make it clear you value their education.

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Build a Strong Relationship with Your Teen’s Teacher

Meet the teachers in the beginning of the school year. Learn how they best communicate. Share important information that may affect your teen’s school work.

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Help Your Teen Manage School Work

This doesn’t mean doing your child’s homework. It means empowering your teen to come up with a routine to effectively complete assignments. It also means helping develop time management and organizational skills. And encouraging healthy eating, sleep, and exercise habits to keep your teen focused and prepared for school.

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