The end of summer brings both excitement and anticipation of a new school year. From the shopping for school clothes, the wait to find out who new teachers will be, and hundreds of new possibilities for the school year. So, how do you help your teen to have the best year possible? Whether or not the start of this year feels easy or more challenging, these tips can help you and your teen manage the highs and lows of going back to school and have the best year yet.
Keep in mind, the start of the year is a wonderful time that is often filled with anxiousness or fears, big and small. Some teens might be going to a new school, entering a new grade, or even starting high school or middle school for the first time. They might be asking themselves, things like who will my friends be? Am I going to get lost? Will my classes be too hard? What if I don’t get along with my teacher? Not every teen will experience high anxiety at the beginning of the year. That may make it even easier for them. Wherever they are starting, use these tips to make their year even better.
1) Get Clear on What They Want
Help them by thinking through what they want to achieve this year. This might be things like make it on the varsity soccer team, get at 3.5 grade point average or make three new friends. Feel free to throw out suggestions, but it’s important for this to come from them. Stick with only two to three key priorities to focus on, keep it simple. Creating a long list of priorities is overwhelming for most people, including teens. If they are tempted to create a long list, keep it short and add new priorities as they accomplish the ones on their short list.
2) Learn from Last Year
Ask them to take a quick look at last year. What went well? What would they want to change? What can they learn from their successes? It’s important not to dwell on past mistakes, but instead try to see what can be learned. What worked really well and what would need to change? Then, take these ideas and apply them to their priorities for the year and come up with a plan.
3) Friends Are Key
Friends are such a huge part of every teen’s life. They not only provide great support but are one of the biggest influences. You may not have much control over whom your teen ultimately decides to hang out with, but they can understand your opinions and rules. Start by being an example. Look around at the people you call friends, are they bringing out the best in you? Next, talk to you teen about friends and use examples from their life and yours. Talk about how you’ve seen friends influence others and make sure you let them share their observations. If you do disagree with them over their choice in friends, you can still set boundaries by establishing rules (for example, no riding in the car with certain friends or not allowing certain friends over).
4) Finding Courage
Midst all the excitement of going back to school, teens are sometimes fearful too. It might be fear of the unknown, a new school, teachers, or pressure to succeed. Acknowledge your teen for times they acted with courage and help them notice it as well. It might be the time they stood up for someone, or took the chemistry class they were afraid of, or talked to the teacher that they disagreed with. Most likely he or she made courageous acts every week, so often it’s easy to forget to take note of them. Help your son or daughter see these times they acted with courage and share your stories so they can continue to be courageous.
5) Encourage an Open Dialogue
So many parents feel it’s harder and harder to talk to their teen as they get older. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be this way. As you start a new year, set the stage for what you want. Maybe you have a movie night once a week, or ten minutes a day where you catch up with your son or daughter. Keep it fun and be creative. Ask your friends how they keep the communication lines open. Often during these moments of fun and spontaneity, conversations naturally occur. The direct approach works well too. You might try saying something like, “Hey, I want to be able to hear what’s going on, do you have any ideas for how to stay in touch?” Keeping them a part of the decision making process is important.
6) Dress for Success
Now that you’ve addressed the thoughts and fears from the inside, don’t forget about the outside. It’s just as important. It’s crucial that he or she feels good about their hair, their clothes, and their looks. This doesn’t mean you need to spoil your teen or spend a lot of money. You know when they’re feeling good about the way they look. Take them shopping for the afternoon or go get a haircut together. On the other hand, what if you disagree on looks? That is a tough one that most parents have battled. Within reason, try to let them express themselves the way they feel most comfortable with and try to keep your communication lines open if you’re in disagreement.
As you and your teen get ready for another school year, remember to keep things simple and focus on the positives. By using these tips now and throughout the year, you and your teen will be certain to have the best year yet!
By Carrie Silver-Stock