One thing all adolescents have in common is that at some point or another school stresses them out. They are given an assignment that really stretches them, or have to make a certain grade on a final exam to get a passing grade in a class. Every kid runs up against a class where they don’t understand the material and feels completely lost. Middle school and high school can be a huge challenge for your kids.
Here are 5 tips to help your teenager cope with school stress:
- Help them keep the big picture in mind. A high school grade or class doesn’t in any way define who they are as a person. The effort they make, and the ability to cope with challenges does define them. That’s where your focus needs to be as a parent.
- Give them guidance on how to seek out the help they need. As your teenager gets older and older, you should do less and less of the actual calling/emailing teachers and tutors for them. Help them find the information they need to seek out help, but get them to do it themselves because that also builds character.
- Help them learn to break problems into small pieces. If your teen is given a 10 page research paper, then it’s your job to help them learn to break it down. Help them make a check-list of steps that get the paper done. Kids who learn to patiently outline papers, research carefully, write a draft, edit their draft, and then turn in their papers get better grades. They also learn huge life skills about time management and planning.
- Help your teenagers learn to pace themselves slowly. A teen who studies consistently for a couple hours per day is a better student than one who studies in spurts. It’s hard for teens to learn that there are days when they have no homework assignments, but they should still be working on school. If they take the time to work when there’s no work assigned, then they can stay ahead a little bit. This reduces future stress.
- Learn to study in groups. It makes it more fun, and it makes it easier to stick with it for longer. If your child is stressed about how to handle a difficult class, one of the best things they can do is get together with a few of their friends who also have the class. Different students understand different parts of the material. If they work together they can help each other learn.
The bottom line is that school is overwhelming sometimes. It gets to every student from the 2.0 student to the 4.0 student. One of the best things you can do is to help your adolescent have a strategy. Recognize that teenagers aren’t always great at carrying out their strategies, so you will have to gently help them stay on track. It’s also important for you to recognize the limits of your child’s abilities. If your teen is working as hard as they can and getting a 2.5 GPA, then don’t push them to be a 3.5 student; they will start to feel like you are never satisfied with them.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT