7 Tips to Help Your Teen Have a Great School Year

By: Dr. Cliff Mack
Parenting school-aged children starts to look different as they progress into middle and high school, leaving many parents wondering what their involvement should look like. CCA high school counselor Dr. Cliff Mack sheds some light by sharing seven ways parents can empower their teens to have a successful school year!

Your child’s getting older, which means that first-day-of-school photoshoots are likely becoming more challenging to pull off. Suddenly, you’re no match for eye rolls and grumbling.

Just because teens are inclined to pull away and think they’re “too cool for school” doesn’t mean that you stop leaning in. In fact, now’s the time for you to lean in even more. However, your involvement should look different as they progress through middle and high school.

As a school counselor and father at Calvary Christian Academy (CCA), I like to encourage parents to find a healthy balance between being involved and also empowering their child, preparing him/her for a successful future. Below are seven ways you can do just that this new school year.

    1. Build Healthy Relationships

      Encourage your child to take ownership of their relationship with their Heavenly Father, their family, and their classmates throughout the year. I recommend coaching them on how to set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations in order to achieve a balanced spiritual, academic, and social life.

      And because children are astute observers, it is important to model this prioritization of healthy relationships in your own life as well. Make sure your child sees you in prayer, in The Word, and in communion with family and friends. I encourage CCA parents to get involved in Parent-to-Parent Fellowship events where they can meet other like-minded parents and grow deeper roots in their faith.

      Make sure your child sees you in prayer, in The Word, and in communion with family and friends.
    2. Provide a Balance of Accountability and Trust

      Aim to create a home environment that keeps your child accountable through mutual trust. I’m referring to a student's ability to understand that they must be disciplined, focused, and take ownership of their grades, academics, extracurriculars, and growth in Christ.

      They also need you to help them understand that they will need to face the consequences or reap the benefits of their choices. We need to remember that we’re preparing them for life beyond middle and high school where they will have to be accountable to supervisors, colleagues, spouses, etc.

    3. Designate a Study Area With Minimal Distractions

      Your home should have a designated space where your child can concentrate on schoolwork. Sometimes the best place for students to work is the kitchen area where their parents can easily keep an eye on them.

      If your child doesn’t require as much oversight, I recommend allowing him/her to work in their bedroom (preferably at a desk, not on their bed) with the door open and their computer screen facing toward you for easy monitoring. This is what my 12th grade daughter does in our home. You know your child best and can determine what level of trust and supervision there needs to be in order to maximize success.

    4. Instill Your Child’s Communication Skills With Teachers

      Once students enter high school, they should be taking the lead when it comes to communicating with their teachers. I believe this is a key skill students need to have. Why’s that? As I mentioned earlier, our job as parents and mentors is to prepare them for adulthood. When they’re in college or in the workforce, they will be responsible for communicating with their professors and supervisors.

      This shift requires us to take a step back as parents so our children can have the opportunity to develop their own voice that’s able to advocate for themselves. If your child is just getting started with this practice, you can help him/her craft the message or simply review it and provide feedback as needed before he/she sends it. If your child is capable of flying solo with communication, ask him/her to “cc” you in all emails so you remain aware of what’s going on.

      This shift requires us to take a step back as parents so our children can have the opportunity to develop their own voice.
    5. Encourage Organizational Skills

      If your child is not naturally gifted in this area, no need to worry; he/she can develop organizational skills! Have a conversation with your child about how they plan to organize their binder, folders, backpack, locker, agenda, and emails this school year. Share best practices based on your experience, and help your child establish a system that will work best for him/her.

      If organizational skills aren’t your forte, I recommend collaborating with someone you know who is gifted in this area who can share pointers with your child. Staying organized will help ensure greater academic success and result in less headaches as the school year progresses.

    6. Monitor Your Child’s Rest and Nutrition

      Between homework and after school activities, getting adequate sleep can be challenging for students. It’s incredibly important to make sure your child gets to bed on time so that his/her mind and body are refreshed and ready to learn the following day.

      You can help your child figure out a healthy balance between following through with responsibilities and taking care of themselves in order to prevent stress, irritability, distraction, and burnout. This may require you to lock your child’s phone after a certain time and/or have them park it outside of their bedroom to minimize late-night distractions with their friends via text, social media, FaceTime, etc. Click here to read more about this topic from CCA Bible teacher Erik Most.

      Eating nutritious foods for breakfast and ensuring your child is well hydrated will provide his/her body the fuel it needs to power through the day. God has given us one body, and we need to learn how to properly steward it well and teach our children to do the same.
      God has given us one body, and we need to learn how to properly steward it well and teach our children to do the same.
    7. Stay Connected

      Monitor your child’s grades and raise questions to see how their classes are going so you can gauge whether they need help. By staying on top of their progress, you also have the opportunity to praise them, not just for good grades, but when they also overcome academic challenges, as these are character-building moments. Acknowledge growth and progress, not just the outcome.

      At CCA, we encourage parents to check their emails and MyCCA online portal daily to stay up-to-date with important school announcements. When parents are equipped with this knowledge, they can better keep their child accountable when it comes to owning their schooling experience.

While I don’t encourage “helicopter parenting”, which is defined as excessive hovering and control, I do think it’s healthy for teen parents to play an active role in their children’s education by empowering them, showing interest in their lives, and actively listening to what they have to say. Give your child the opportunity to prove that they can be trusted as he/she matures into a young adult.

I hope you find these seven tips helpful so your family can have a successful, productive, and profitable school year!

It’s healthy for teen parents to play an active role in their children’s education by empowering them, showing interest in their lives, and actively listening to what they have to say.
 
Dr. Clifford H. Mack, Jr. has worked as a school counselor at CCA for nine years, serving 11th-12th grade students (last names A-K) and their families. His wife Shawnteria also works at CCA as the Head of the English Department, and their three children (Azana, Alyza and Cliff, III) are currently enrolled at CCA. Dr. Mack has a passion to serve, shepherd, and help students and parents achieve success.
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