With all the focus being on our two littlest kids starting school I sometimes feel that our teenage son James is overlooked when it comes to his school life.
Like younger kids its important for teens to get into a routine when it comes to getting back to school. Personally I think that teens have a lot on their plate when it comes to the ‘work week’. Its like a job (that you don't get paid for and didn't choose) that starts at 8.30am. At 4.00pm you engage in company team building exercises playing a sport, you travel home for 30 mins or so, take a break for an hour and then at 6,30pm you're back to (home)work for another 2 hours, then you have dinner and get another one hour break and then its time to turn in so that you have the energy to do it all over again the next day.
I think that its time our hormonal teenagers got some of the attention and support that they need in this vitally important time on their life. These are some of the things I have learned and some that I have been told. All will make for a more stress free life for you and your mini adult!
1. Find a routine that works
James and I sat down and mutually agreed a solid routine at the start of the year. As challenges swing in your teen’s way, having consistency when they get home will help them keep their head together.
After school: There’s no one set way for your teen to spend their time when they get home. But if it’s consistent day-to-day, then they’re more likely to feel calm and in control. This way, as homework deadlines and mock exams approach, they can reassure themselves that they’ll have time to do it.
Before bed: There are few things more stressful than chaos in the morning. Running around the house for a missing folder, book, shoe or art project – toast-in-hand – tends to set the day off on the wrong note. Avoid this by getting everything ready the night before. After dinner’s a good time for them to get their bag ready and list everything they’re doing the next day. I use the carrot approach here, such as “You can watch an episode or two of The US office when your bag is ready and by the front door”. That way, they’ll down their breakfast a bit more calmly and head off to school in the right frame of mind.
2. Tidy desk, tidy mind
By Intercert it’s ideal if a teen has their own desk space somewhere at home. Even the most disorganised teens benefit from keeping the place where they study under control. They should start by getting their books and notes organised by subject depending on their homework that night. That way, when they sit down to study they can grab what they need and get their head down straight away.
A teen’s biggest enemy when it comes to studying is also their favourite thing – their phone. Videos, games, memes and apps all battle for their attention from dawn till dusk. Learning to control their screen time now will help them loads at exam time, and for the rest of their lives too.
When they’re doing homework, their phone shouldn’t be on them or near them. If they’re working on a computer, they should turn off desktop notifications too, as Whatsapp, email and messages can all pop up on their screens when they’re trying to work (and look like they’re working!).
This is another nice way parents can set an example – by doing the same. It’s true that kids are more likely to do what you do, not what you say. If you show how you don’t need to be glued to your phone the whole time, then it’s much easier for you to encourage the same behaviour from them.
3. Help them find a positive frame of mind
Sometimes a teen’s harshest critic is themselves. If they convince themselves early on that they’re not good enough, it becomes much harder for them to excel. Start the year with a big focus on reinforcing their confidence. Emphasise what makes them special, and that they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it. Whatever gets them down at school, having an encouraging environment at home will help them grow resilience.
4. Suggest that they set a goal for the year
As well as focusing on every deadline that comes their way, it’s important to focus on the bigger picture too. As Michelle Obama once said to a group of students, “Every single one of you has something to offer. Something that only you can bring to this world,” and she asked them to set one big goal for the year.
Ask your teen to have a think about what’s unique about them, and what mark they want to make on the world. Focussing on one big thing to achieve by this time next year can inspire them with the little things too. Finding their individuality and growing their self-esteem makes a more motivated teen who’s ready for anything. With a bit of confidence, organisation and inspiration they’ll make this school year their best one yet.