By the time students enter middle and high school, it’s fairly typical to see excitement for school wane. Whether your child has typical teenage angst for school or just plain hates it, try out the tips below to reengage them in their daily grind.
Find the positive.
I’ll be blunt: If you don’t talk highly of school, your child won’t think highly of school either. Phrases like, “You’ll only be here ‘til you’re 18” certainly have their place in helping our kids see past the short-term. But focusing on “just get past this” might morph into their life manta: just get past college, just get past this first job, just get past having their own kids in the home, until they’ll realize their whole life was “just getting past” something.
But it can be hard to find the positive. So, start by asking the right questions. I’m loving this list – and focusing on the positive ones. I wrote numbers 1, 2, 9, 11, 13, 17 on a large post note and stuck it in my car for conversation on the ride home after picking up my son. I usually only ask a version of one or two questions, and some days I don’t get much out of him (moody…). But on the days he is willing to share, wow – the conversations! And often times, he asks me the same question back, which gives me an opportunity to find the positive in my own day as well.
Are they frustrated with school because they’re not being successful? What skills are they missing that you could help fill: a lack of organization to know what assignments to complete by which due dates, lack of motivation, just plain hating homework? Try to fill this gap – or ask for help from school officials. Also, co-workers or friends have likely gone through similar issues with their kids, so use your network of resources to get your child the help she or he needs. Just remember to coach, not enable your child. It is tempting to simply solve the problem for him or her now, but remember the long game: you are building a future independent, productive adult (so they stop living in your house).
If your child is a strong student and grades aren’t an issue, he or she may need more challenging classes. Check with the school counselor for guidance on how to either get your child into different classes, or engage in an extracurricular activity.
Speaking of extracurriculars…
Get them connected.
Ask a teen who they want to spend the most time with, and they’ll say: friends. Peer relationships are an essential part of adolescence. If your teen is not involved in any type of activity-based group, it’s time to step in and find out what activities the school offers and encourage your child to get involved. Activity involvement will likely lead to career exploration experiences, connecting with school adult sponsors who can be another voice of reason in your child’s life, and future scholarship opportunities.
In addition to being connected to peers, identify one or two adults in the school building that champion your kid. Often, a child’s frustration with school comes from a lack of feeling like anyone cares. Reach out to those adults and explain how much their interest and attention to your child matters, and ask them to be intentional about “checking in” with your student a couple times a week. If you’re having trouble finding an adult at school, look for a stable, encouraging adult in your community.
Don’t rush past the excitement of an improved test score, or getting a project done on time! Celebrate with something your teen likes. Our family is a big fan of the make-your-own-frozen-yogurt dessert shops. Teens might also like extra screen time, their favorite meal for dinner, or a new clothing item. And don’t underestimate the power of time with you as a reward – yes, most teens still like this one-on-one time. Throwing the football around in the backyard, going shopping for new bedroom décor, or doing something hobby-related are good reward ideas too.
Even though your child is growing more independent, remember that your involvement in their day-to-day has a big impact on them. School can be a more positive experience if your child feels extra support at home.