How did summer go by so quickly? It seems like 5 minutes ago that all my teenage clients were ecstatic because June had finally arrived. It was only going to be a few more days and a few more projects, and then they were home free. Now school has either already started, or will be within a few days depending on which district you’re in.
Let’s make this year a great year for your teen! Here are some things I’ve observed other teenagers doing that help them sincerely enjoy their school experience.
1. Get involved at the school. Teenagers who play a sport for their school, are in ASB, actively partake in a school club, go to the football games, attend school dances, join the yearbook staff, write for the newspaper, or some other extracurricular activity that is part of their school like it much better. This has been true every single time I’ve worked with a client who is involved at school. The ones who don’t really feel like they contribute somehow are just passing time.
2. Take classes at the appropriate level. There are a great number of you who push your teenagers to take honors or AP classes whenever it’s offered. The homework load and pressure in these classes is immense. Know your child well enough to see which subjects they really enjoy, and which ones they hate. Push where they have natural interests and talents, and back-off where they don’t. It is much better for your teenager to enjoy being a student than hate school and constantly feel overwhelmed. Even if this means your son or daughter won’t get into as good of a college as they otherwise might have, they are more likely to have a healthy overall balance in their life; this is good practice for an enjoyable life, which seems more important than the most prestigious university.
3. Manage the screen time. Teens really want their privacy, and these days a huge part of that is having their own electronic devices. They generally believe you as a parent have no right to look at their devices or set limits on when and how they’re used. After working with more teens than I can count, I would say it seems about 90% of them mismanage technology. They use it too often, and it uninhibits their social interactions. Technology can help complete homework faster, but is often a distraction for your teenager. They are texting while they do their math, reading a website about their favorite band while studying, or just falling down the rabbit-hole of internet searches and Youtube videos. It really makes completing homework assignments take forever. It also allows them to say things to people they would never say in person. Teenagers who are limited by their parents on how often, and what they can do with their devices are actually happier (even if they argue about it).
I strongly encourage you to try these three things with your adolescent as they return to school this Fall. Getting involved at school, taking classes that are a fit for their interests and abilities, and managing screen time are all simple changes to make that can really help the quality of the school-year.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT