The new clothes and school supplies are bought and in their proper place. You’ve ordered some last minute reading time to make sure your student still remembers how. Getting to first period on time is the greatest challenge of getting back into a routine. So what’s next?
How can you develop some patterns to make life a little easier as the depths of October come and the countdown to Christmas break becomes more desperate? Putting in a little time now to help your student build mature habits will make life easier for everyone in the long run.
Get phones out of the bedroom. Sleep is important for everyone in the family, and cell phones in bedrooms hinders it for everyone. The backlight impacts our eyes and brain’s ability to start the shutting-down process as we prepare for sleep. Anticipating the next text or email doesn’t help this process either. Begin a new tradition: all phones in the kitchen overnight. You and your teen need all the sleep you can get.
Help your child make a daily to-do list. In early evening, identify what needs to be accomplished for the next 24 hours. This could include homework, house chores, and activity practices.
Check in with your child about the list – every day to see what was done and needs to be done. If your student starts really taking ownership of this action, you may be able to eventually check in less often, or the list may turn to weekly tasks. Developing this habit now will help your student grow into a responsible adult.
Even if your child is a senior in high school, he still needs your guidance. Many times I hear parents say, “He’s 18. He can apply for scholarships on his own.” But then families receive financial aid award letters and begin to realize what their out-of-pocket cost will be for the following year. And while the student can take out loans, there are limits, so many times parents take out loans for their child’s education. Avoid taking out more parent loans by checking in with your child through the scholarship process.
Break big projects into small tasks. The book report that is due or the history project can feel overwhelming to your child, and lead to you buying poster board at 110 pm on a Tuesday night “because it’s due tomorrow, mom!” While you’re helping your child with their daily list, these big projects should come up in conversation too. Help coach your student through a to-do list with due dates for accomplishing the greater goal.
Set even bigger goals. The day-to-day can get mundane, and having a big end-goal in mind can be a motivator for your child to keep trying. Check out this dad’s simple guide: “How I Taught My Kids to Set Goals.”
Value time with friends. Teens have a need to be social. And when your child gets in the same physical space as her friends, it not only means less screen time (from texting and snapchatting each other), it also means they will begin to build social skills that will be essential as an adult (how to: listen, wait to speak, look someone in the eyes), but it also means they are happier because they’re with the people they like best right now (what happened to that cuddly baby?!). Along these lines…
Start talking. Your child was likely very chatty after a day in elementary school. But some magic shift happened as he entered middle and high school, and now it’s mostly grunts. Be intentional! A favorite blog of mine recently posted “50 Questions to Ask Your Kids Instead of Asking ‘How Was Your Day?”
Pick your battles. It’s the ultimate parenting advice. But what the heck does it even mean? The power struggle likely began when they were 2, but now they’re 13 and it’s only getting worse! Save the biggest arguments for non-negotiables: wear a seatbelt, no name calling/bullying, complete school work, no drinking/drugs/smoking, etc. More negotiable rules (all within reason, of course) may include bedtime, clothing, what chores to do and when to do them, food choices. If you haven’t already set these ground rules, have a family conversation now about everything that you know will turn into a battle.