Back To School -Tips For School and Life Success

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We’re nearing the end of another summer and it’s back to school time again–at least in the United States! My younger daughter in fact has begun her first day of sophomore year in High School today; she’s glad to be back home in the Bay Area of Northern California after spending two months in a town outside of Munich, Germany, and she’s revved up to get back into the school and sports routine. She’s excited to see her friends again and is looking forward to what the new school year will bring. (Isn’t it wonderful how we have these annual cycles and traditions on this planet?) Thus for today’s article I’m sharing a few tips that are helpful for back-to-school and life success.

As a parent, what can you do to help your teen get back into the swing of things at school? How can you help ease her back into the school routine? After getting the necessary school supplies and the schedule of courses handled, there are several ways you can support your daughter to succeed this school year. The following are three suggestions for creating a structure that will help her succeed:

1. Create a home environment that encourages learning, a quiet place where she is not disturbed, where she can focus completely on her school work. It’s helpful that she have a place that’s “reserved” for homework and studying, a place where she has all her supplies nearby so she doesn’t have to waste time searching for things. Most serious novelists, for example, have a place reserved just for writing, a special area where they are able to work without being disturbed. (Their offices are not at Starbucks.) Follow the lead of famous novelists and encourage your daughter to create a space that’s designated for school work. It will help her succeed.

2. Help your daughter create a routine for success. Talk to her and together come up with a daily and weekly routine / schedule that will work for her and for you and your family. I know my 15-year old daughter isn’t quite ready to organize her schedule and activities all on her own. Scheduling and organization is not one of her strengths. I help her manage her daily and weekly schedule, including her sports schedule. I ask her, “Do you have a game this weekend? Does your jersey need to be washed? Is it in the laundry room? What time do you have to be up? What else do you need?” I don’t do everything for her, but I help her manage her time. I like to use a calendar where I can view the whole week in one glance.

3. Talk to your teen every day about her day and tell her you love her every single day. Ask her about her day, her teachers, her friends, as well as the high points and the low points of the day. Just listen to the low points without necessarily trying to fix them (unless she asks for specific advice or for help). Practice reflective listening, where you show her that you heard her by reflecting back to her what she said (you can use your own words for this). Even if your teen doesn’t want to have a real discussion with all the details it’s important that you show interest in her daily life. Knowing that you care will encourage her to succeed.

Are You Doing Too Much For Your Teen, Or Too Little?

This does not mean that you do everything for your child though. You’re not helping her succeed in life by doing everything for her. I have known of a few mothers who actually sat down with their kids and helped them go through their homework daily. This is very different from what I experienced when I was growing up. Because my parents did not speak or read English (they were immigrants from Poland) I did not receive any kind of homework help from them. Although this is one extreme, it’s an experience that has definitely helped me become more independent, capable and organized from an early age on.

Contrast this with the other extreme when you do too much for them. Rather than helping them, it can hurt them. For example, an acquaintance of mine who works in social services for the City of San Jose said that just last week, a 24-year old woman who was trained as an Emergency Medical Technician came in to apply for a job and brought her mother along for support. My acquaintance the hiring officer explained to the mother that there’s no way she was going along with her daughter on an emergency medical response and so she could not stay with her daughter during the interview process. The mother was sent out of the room. Unfortunately, the 24-year old EMT was not able to fill out the job application on her own.

Sometimes your teen will ask for help with Mathematics or English homework. I try to help my kids without actually doing the homework or solving the problem for them. I might ask them a couple of questions, give a hint or two, or ask them to make a drawing of the problem. (They have gotten annoyed with me because of this, but I usually tell them that I’m teaching them to think so they will be able to solve similar problems in the future.) I have helped them formulate their ideas, come up with outlines and polish their work once it’s done. I just don’t do the work for them.

So, help your teen with her routine, help her by creating a supportive home environment for learning, communicate your love and support daily and don’t do everything for her. Rather, help her grow. These simple tips will go a long way to help her succeed in school and in life.


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