Enrich your conversations with your teen
Most days, teens and parents talk about topics such as schedules, meals or homework. This is necessary talk, but it's not what brings families closer. At least once a day, make time to ask your teen about something that doesn't involve the tasks at hand. Ask her about a feeling, an interest or an idea she might have. You may learn more about your teen, and she'll know you care what she thinks.
Share personal safety tips for teens on the go
As your teen earns more independence, make sure he knows the steps to take to stay safe. In addition to following COVID protocols, remind him that he should travel with a friend or in a group. He should always let someone responsible know where he's going and when he'll be back. He should never hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker. And when he's home alone, your teen should keep doors and windows locked, and never open the door to strangers.
Respond productively to a poor report card
It's natural to feel upset if your teen brings home a bad report card. But showing frustration and anger isn't productive. Instead, start by talking about what your teen has done well. Next, ask her what she thinks the problem is behind the poor grades. Is it poor study habits? An overloaded schedule? If needed, contact the teachers for their views. Then together, set realistic goals for improvement.
Mentoring gives teens a chance to be role models
Children need good role models, and teens can make great ones. Mentoring a younger child can bring out caring and responsibility traits in your teen, and it may even count toward a school service requirement. Help your teen find mentoring opportunities, such as coaching a sports team, joining a scouting program or tutoring at an area school. Have him ask teachers for ideas, too.
Add a writing activity to family screen time
Here's a way to make your family's screen time more productive and give everyone some writing practice at the same time. Fill a three-ring binder with paper to make a "family review log." Each time someone watches a new show or video, plays a new game or downloads a new app, have that person write a review. Family members can then check the log to help them decide how to schedule their viewing time.
Ask for help if your teen has a problem with reading
By middle and high school, students are expected to have basic reading skills. If your teen dislikes or avoids reading, or has trouble reading aloud, he may have a reading problem. There are many causes of reading problems, but whatever your teen's problem is, you shouldn't face it alone. Ask his teachers or counselor for advice. There are many ways to help students improve reading skills.
Teachers assign homework for many reasons
Homework builds students' self-discipline. But teachers assign different kinds of homework for other reasons, too: Practice homework helps your teen remember a newly learned skill. Preparation homework is a way to introduce her to topics the class will be covering. Extension homework helps her make connections between separate topics. And creative homework challenges your teen to use her skills to show what she's learned.
Respond to teen moods with clear, calm and open communication
Teens are often moody people. But experts say that teens who feel a connection with their parents do better in school. To encourage that connection, keep your temper under control, even if your teen doesn't. If he claims he needs his "space," create times when you are available for conversations, either in person or on the phone. And let him know what is and isn't acceptable behavior.
Encourage your teen to use a homework preparation checklist
Your teen can't complete her homework if she's forgotten the information or resources she needs. Eliminate the "I forgot it" excuse by having her create a checklist to complete before the end of the school day. It should contain questions such as: Do I understand all assignments and due dates? Do I have all the needed books, materials and supplies? Have I talked to all the necessary people?
Focus on fitness to support health and learning
Exercise is vital for your teen's health, and research shows it also improves learning. But physical education classes at school aren't enough. To ensure your teen gets enough exercise, look for activities with a focus on fitness, such as a run for charity. Suggest your teen join a hiking club, or a school or community sports team. And make exercise a part of your whole family's daily routine.
Suggest low-pressure ways for your teen to enjoy writing
Many teens enjoy writing in their spare time. Writing builds important communication skills that help in school and life. To increase your teen's interest, suggest enjoyable writing activities: Ask him to write a description of a family member. Or he could imagine what it would be like to be an object, and write what it might say if it could talk. Or give your teen some photos and ask him to write stories to go with them.
Preparation helps teens cope with math anxiety
Some students get so anxious about math that their feelings of inadequacy become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their performance suffers. Remind your teen that the secret to math success is practice and effort. Encourage him to study math every day, make a note of anything that is confusing and follow up with the teacher. Daily review reinforces learning and helps teens see how much they do know.
Get to the heart of homework problems
If your student never seems to do homework, the situation calls for problem-solving. Instead of criticizing, ask questions: Is he afraid of missing the bus if he takes time to gather the materials he needs? Are his books too heavy for his long walk home? Does he routinely check the online notices for the class? Once you and your teen have identified the issue, you can discuss ways to solve it.
Share strategies for success on tests right from the start
Before your teen starts to answer test questions, she should do a few things that can make a difference to her score. Teach your teen to write down key information she's studied, like formulas or dates, at the top so she'll have them to refer to when answering questions. Then she should read the instructions carefully and figure out how much time she has for each question. Now she's ready to do her best.
Missing school changes lives … and not in a good way
Sooner or later, every teen will stumble out of bed and whine, "Do I have to do school today?" Your answer can be short and simple: "Yes." Students who often miss school earn lower grades than those who attend regularly. They may not learn the foundation skills needed to understand the next unit's material. What's more, they don't develop the responsible habits that will make them successful in life.
Share tips for creating a study group that really works
Study groups can help teens strengthen and enhance learning. When forming a study group, your teen should choose members he knows and likes, but who aren't such good friends that socializing overpowers learning. Group members should write down goals and create a plan for meeting them. Taking turns leading the group encourages all members to share the responsibility for its success.
Discuss ways your teen can contribute to school safety
Students can do a lot to help make school a safe place. Talk to your teen about actions she could take. For example, she could train to be a peer counselor and help others settle disputes. Encourage her to make new students feel welcome and part of the school. And if your teen is aware that someone has made threats or has a weapon on school property, she should report it immediately.
Academic fitness helps your teen compete in life
Schools across the nation are working to help students become "academically fit" so they can succeed in an increasingly competitive world. To help at home, set high (but still realistic) expectations for your teen's achievement. Encourage daily reading and frequent writing. Then, find out what he is learning in core subjects like math, science, history and English, and help him relate the material to what's going on in the world or in your lives.
Bust the myths that prevent math success
Does your teen believe that "You're either born a math person or you're not"? This is a common math myth. Give your teen the facts: Great teaching and hard work are what make someone a math person. Here's another myth to bust: "Math takes too much memorization and repetition." The truth is that math is about learning patterns. Once a student is familiar with them, the problems make sense and the math starts to be fun.
Stop a tobacco habit before it starts
According to one survey, teens are most likely to begin smoking between the ages of 13 and 15. And the fact is that people who start smoking as teens also have a harder time quitting. Discuss the dangers of tobacco use in all its forms (including vaping) with your teen, and remind her that once she begins she may not be able to stop. Don't wait until your teen gets older before discouraging tobacco use. By then, it may be too late.