As your child enters high school, you may become concerned about ensuring their success. When looking at why some children fail at school, the issue is complex. But we see that barring learning disabilities, inadequate learning environments, and severe emotional traumas; there are three main reasons:
- They lack confidence in their own abilities.
- They don’t know how to study or learn efficiently.
- They don’t have adequate family support.
The good news is that your teen can succeed with help, encouragement, and support.
High school is a teen’s first foray into more significant responsibilities and more independence. However, while teens own their responsibilities and schedule, they still may need and benefit from some parental guidance to help them succeed. The more involved you are in your teen’s life and high school experience, the more you’ll be able to steer them in the optimal direction as they pursue the building blocks of their future. That said, you don’t need to be overly controlling or micro-manage your teen’s workload since a valuable part of the high school experience is learning to be responsibly independent in preparation for college and the real world.
Following is a list of ways you can help your child succeed in high school.
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Attend Parent Conferences
Getting to know your student’s teachers and attending any parent-teacher events and conferences is a great way to remain informed and involved with your student’s progress in their classes. In high school, it may be less frequent for teachers to set up parent-teacher conferences than in middle or elementary school, but they may set them up from time to time or if the need arises, such as a student falling behind. However, that doesn’t mean that you, as the parent, can’t take it upon yourself to get to know your student’s teachers and request feedback via a conference or phone call. Additionally, as students become upperclassmen and college applications loom nearer, it can be helpful to increase your involvement to make sure your student is staying on track for their chosen path.
Visit the School
Taking a physical tour of your teen’s high school, even before they begin school, is an excellent opportunity for you to get to know the place where your student will spend much of their time, as well as to help put your student at ease about the new building. If you’re able, you may want to map out your student’s class schedules and walk them from classroom to classroom to determine the fastest route between classes. Additionally, you might want to spend some time perusing the high school’s website to learn about the various programs and opportunities available for them. The website should have a list of extracurriculars, teams, and clubs for students, which you could bring to your teen’s attention to help them get more involved and round out their resumes.
Help Them Stay on Top of Homework
Helping your child manage their time and their workload is going to be one of the most important things to ensuring their success in high school. You don’t need to micromanage your teen to help them stay on top of their homework, but consistent weekly check-ins are a great way to keep up with your teen’s workload. In the early stages of high school, your teen may be adjusting to the more significant number of classes and more substantial workload expectations so that they might benefit from some guidance around time management and planning. That will continue to be the case as your teen advances to more rigorous classes and needs to accommodate studying for AP tests and SATs and ACTs, so teens must get a good handle on time management early on, and that’s where parental guidance comes in.
Related: Making Your Teen a Better Student
Help Them Study
High school is the first time the stakes are a lot higher for grades, as a student’s GPA can have a real impact on their future, so learning how to study effectively and efficiently to ensure optimal performance on tests is incredibly important. As a parent, you can help your teen come up with a manageable study schedule for their upcoming quizzes and tests to avoid night-before cramming and all-nighters. In addition to helping your teen spread out studying for each subject in the days or weeks leading up to big quizzes and tests, you can also get involved with their study process. Some great ways to get involved and improve your teen’s study quality could be testing your teen with flashcards or coming up with mnemonic devices for hard-to-remember facts. It could also be as simple as being there to answer questions and help with difficult subjects.\
Another way to help them study is to provide a quiet, comfortable, well-lit, distraction-free place. If you can’t provide a dedicated space, you can periodically reserve a space for study, like the kitchen table. During study time, the kitchen is off-limits to anyone else, and there are no games or distracting television programs within ear-shot.
Related: How to Make the Most of High School
Make Sure They’re Eating Right and Getting Enough Sleep
Teens in high school have a lot of subjects to focus on and many projects, quizzes, and tests to manage, in addition to extracurricular activities and social life, so treating their bodies right and staying in the best health possible is a must. Additionally, the habits people develop in their teen years can carry on into their adult life, so it will only benefit your teen to help them develop positive and healthy eating and sleeping habits now. A nutritious and balanced breakfast is always a plus to get a teen’s brain into gear and give them the necessary energy to get the school day off to a good start. Just as important is a consistent and healthy sleep schedule, ideally ensuring your teen gets a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night.
Related: Tips for High School Freshmen
Understand the School’s Discipline and Bullying Policies
As a parent of a teen in high school, you need to understand both the academic and social requirements. In recent years, bullying in schools has increased, so schools are getting more and more stringent in their no-tolerance policies against bullying and inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. You want to ensure that you and your teen understand what actions constitute bullying and the associated consequences. Be sure your teen can identify bullying when they see it and can make sure they’re never a part of the problem. It may help to enforce a similar code of conduct at home, so your teen knows what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of how to treat others. That will only help them both in school and in the real world, where such inappropriate behavior can have even harsher consequences.
It’s a delicate balance to figure out exactly how involved you should be in both your student’s life and their actual school, but getting involved can make a positive impression on your teen and show them you care about their high school experience. You can find various opportunities for parents to get involved on your teen’s school or school district website, and there may be an array of short-term (or one-time) and longer-term volunteer opportunities that might be of interest. These opportunities range from working fundraising activities and special events to chaperoning field trips and dances to attending school board meetings. You can also join the PTA and get more involved regularly, while also networking with and befriending other parents and teachers. You don’t have to be on your teen’s high school campus every day to get involved and show that you care; even a monthly PTA meeting will send that message and keep you in the loop on the goings-on of the high school.
Always Make Time to Talk About School
The best way to keep up with your teen and play a positive role in their high school experience is to keep an open line of communication about school and their life in general, so they’re more apt to come to you when issues do arise. You should provide an open, honest, judgment-free zone when you have conversations about school and your teen’s life and show them that you genuinely care to listen and hear about their situation. Some teens may need some coaxing to encourage them to talk about their day or their problems. Once you show a real interest in various aspects of their life, from school to extracurriculars to friends, they’ll be much more forthcoming about discussing their experiences and any problems they may face. That is also an excellent opportunity to strengthen your bond with your teen and be there as a helpful mentor and role model in times when they need advice.
Teach Them Organizational Skills
Organization is a life skill your teen should learn as early as possible. At every stage of life, there are things to juggle. High school students have to manage their time, obligations, responsibilities, and the expectations of others – not a light load. It can all be overwhelming unless they know how to organize it.
Whether or not your teen is naturally organized, here are some tips that will help them keep it all together.
- Use Checklists. Teach your child to be a list-maker who writes down everything they have to do or remember. This doesn’t just apply to school-related things. They can learn to create checklists for everything in their lives.
- Use an Academic Planner to keep track of schedules, assignments, tests, and exams. Knowing when assignments are due and how much time is left before an upcoming test will help your teen organize their study time.
- Organize Study Times. Teach them to assign study times and homework times with due dates in mind.
- Keep Organized Notebooks. Help your teen to keep track of papers and information they need in a binder or notebook. They can use dividers to separate class notes and info, or they can color-code notebooks. Add ‘to do’ and ‘done’ folders for worksheets, handouts, and notices.
- Keep Things Tidy. Encourage your teen to keep their belongings as tidy and organized as possible.
- Create a household schedule. Having the family on a schedule will make life a little easier for your teen as well. Regular waking times, study times, and bedtimes can streamline a busy household and help your teen be better organized. Remember that before studying, give them a little time to unwind from school.
Take School Attendance Seriously
There are times when a day away from school is necessary. If your teen is ever nauseous, vomiting has diarrhea, or has a high fever, they should miss school. But other than these, school is not to be missed. Catching up on missed work can be overwhelming.
Of course, there are other reasons students want to skip school. Bullying, social problems, issues with other students or teachers, challenging classes, etc., are all understandable reasons your teen may try to avoid school. These may constitute the need for a mental health day from school but shouldn’t be ignored. Meet with school administration or school counselors. Advocate for your teen and help them advocate for themselves but don’t ignore these problems. It’s unlikely they will go away on their own and could cause your teen more severe issues later.
Keep a Long Term Perspective
Nothing is wrong with wanting your teen to succeed in high school, but try to keep a long-term perspective. Grades, exams, and extracurriculars are not the end-game; they’re just a part of the process of your teen becoming a happy and valuable adult member of society. Remind your teen that they are more than their grades. And that even if they don’t outperform others in high school, they can still go on to live fulfilling lives.
- Consider keeping their report cards off the fridge (and social media). While you should demonstrate that you are proud of their efforts and achievements, we don’t want to add unnecessary pressure to perform.
- Share with them about your own academic successes and failures. If they see you deal well with your failures, so will they. Your stories will inspire and encourage them.
- Value the process of learning, not just the result. The number or letter grade assigned at the end of learning doesn’t necessarily represent the work that went into it, or the knowledge and wisdom acquired.
- Value goals over grades. Help them set goals at the beginning of the school year. Let the goals be specific, achievable, and within their control. For instance, saying ‘I will get all A’s this year’ is too broad a goal. Instead – ‘I will ask for help more often in math class,’ or ‘I will practice my multiplication tables three times each week.’
Encourage Good Mental Health Practices
Teach your teens not to romanticize stress and overwork. Show them that maintaining a healthy work-play balance is essential and that it is just as crucial for them to feel good on the inside as it is to do well on the outside.
Here are five tips to help your teen deal with stress:
- Focus on their strengths. Remind them to take time to think of all the things they do well and find ways to do more of those things.
- Get plenty of sleep. Good sleep will help your teen develop normally, focus and concentrate on work, and feel more on top of things.
- Do physical activity. This doesn’t mean they have to do a team sport (unless they want to) but doing physical activity releases stress-reducing endorphins into the body.
- Do things that make them happy. While they can’t quit school, you can encourage them to find things they love and do more of them.
- Talk to someone. Encourage your teen to talk to you, a teacher, or some other trusted adult about their stressors. Someone else can see from a different perspective and help them find solutions or better deal with the issues.
Teens in high school aren’t perfect, and they’re still learning the ropes and trying to manage a rigorous academic load, extracurricular activities, and some semblance of social life. Sometimes, they need help and guidance from someone older and wiser, and as a parent, that’s the job for which you’re most suited. It requires establishing an open, two-way stream of communication with your teen, getting involved in their high school experience, and working to guide them on the proper path to success. Your contribution can be as small as a weekly check-in on their studies and mental health or as big as daily homework help and running through flashcards in preparation for upcoming tests. Still, either way, your teen will benefit and thank you for it later.
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