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Back To School For Your Teen

By Ursula Richards Scheele, M.S.Ed

Back to school time can be stressful for both you and your teen. Excitement and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. While your child is most likely looking forward to seeing her friends again, sometimes getting back into the swing of things can put a strain on the family. A little proactive work before school begins can make a big difference in getting the school year off to a good start. I believe that good students are made, not born; and many of the skills that kids need to be successful in school are the same ones they will need to be successful in life. These include the ability to set and meet realistic expectations, the development of strong planning and organizational skills, taking responsibilities seriously, and being accountable for one's actions.

Many of the parents that I work with assume that their high school student is aware of their expectations. Oftentimes, this is not the case. As teens gain more freedom, they are continually challenged to make tough decisions. This is a critical time when parents need to communicate clearly what they expect from their teen in order to maintain some influence over their child's decision-making process. Make sure to be specific. Are you expecting your child to be on the "B" honor role? If so, tell her. Let her know if and when she needs to be home for dinner. Talk about homework expectations. You might need to help your teen get her study habits back on track, and the fall is the perfect time to do so because by spring, it is often too late. Discuss and clarify your rules regarding use of the car, curfew, and responsibilities at home. Ensure that your teen understand these rules, and remember that consistent rule enforcement is your job as a parent.

Planning and organization are key ingredients for a successful school year. Purchase the appropriate school supplies for your child. Most schools post the supply lists on the school web site, in the local newspaper, or at a local store. If a student planner isn't provided to your student at her school add one to the list - a planner is an essential organizational tool for your high school student. Schools usually post their year-long calendar on their website so you can view important dates like parent/teacher conferences, college application and scholarship/financial aid deadlines, and assessment test dates. Your school's counseling office can be a great help in getting a good start in the fall - check their web site or call to set up an appointment.

Once the school year gets started there will undoubtedly be a day or days when your child does not want to go to school for one reason or another. Once you've ruled out any serious illness, discuss the importance of accountability with your child. Adults and children alike face challenges every day that we would rather avoid, whether it's at school, athletic practice, or work. However, as most adults have learned, delaying the inevitable usually worsens the consequences. It is important for teens to face challenges in order to prepare them for adulthood. Furthermore, kids must be in school in order to meet their academic requirements and avoid truancy. Statistically, students who miss school are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, and the educational impact of missing an entire day's worth of content and homework can be detrimental to a successful school year.

It's important for you and your child to know that a solid high school academic record is not only crucial for making it to graduation, but has an impact on what he can do after high school. Four-year colleges assess an applicant by looking at a student's class rank, cumulative grade point average (which covers all of high school), and college assessment test scores. Experiencing academic difficulties and/or failure in the first few years of high school can be difficult (yet not impossible) to overcome.

Yes, there is a lot to think about and discuss with your teen as you help her make a smooth transition back to high school. It takes a considerable amount of time, energy and patience to help start your teen on the right track and keep them there. But it's worth it- they do still need you and will benefit from your love and support.

Ursula Richards Scheele is a high school counselor in North Branch, MN. She resides in North Branch with her husband and two sons.

Categories: Teens, Children,

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