Members of the counseling department are hearing great enthusiasm from our students for their upcoming summer vacation plans, everything from road trips and summer jobs to sunny days on the coast and good times with family and friends. Meanwhile, there remains one last month of school to finish, including final exams and projects.
Let’s combine efforts—families and counselors—to help all our students finish out the school year on the right note. Here are a few ways to help your teen enjoy a healthy, fulfilling, and productive quarter:
Ask Your Student About Small Goals
Ask your teen to identify a few goals for the end of the year. Goals should be reasonable and broken into steps, so your teen can acknowledge her progress along the way.
Celebrate Small Victories
The journey is just as important, sometimes even more so, than the destination. Encourage your teen to celebrate the effort she puts into her work. What seems to motivate her? If it’s time with family, maybe you play a board game, cook, or take a walk together once your student’s work is complete. If it’s time with friends, maybe your student makes plans for Saturday night pending the completion of X, Y, and Z assignments. Teaching your teen how to get and stay motivated will serve her well in and out of high school.
Encourage Effort, Not Grades
As finals approach, students can develop an unhealthy focus on grades and with that, a sense that grades equal personal value. A “good” grade creates self-worth, and a “bad” grade creates self-doubt.
However, grades actually are intended to track progress, not to determine worth. Help us reframe students’ mindset by positively acknowledging the level of effort your teens put into their assignments, encouraging action when there is dissatisfaction, and using terms like “low” and “high” instead of “good” and “bad” to help remove the idea of self-worth.
A few examples of what to say: “I love how hard you’ve been working on that math assignment! Great job! How are you feeling about the progress you’ve made?” or “I know that grade wasn’t as high as you’d hoped. What’s your plan for next time?”
Encourage Her to Stay Organized
Review with your teen how she intends to utilize her planner to tackle assignments and projects for the rest of the year. There is no one right way. Some students color code their assignments or classes, decorate the cover to personalize, or create checkboxes or other coding systems to indicate completion of tasks. Students may use the planner for both academic and extracurricular activities, including social time, create daily and/or weekly checklists, and/or break up the completion of assignments into multiple days. The most important thing is that your student is using her planner on a daily basis.
Cheerlead and Support
When frustrations arise and your student complains, try to listen and validate: “That sounds difficult. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way.” But also cheerlead: “I have a lot of faith in you and your abilities.” “You’re hardworking and skilled. I know you can do this!” and support: “What can I do to help you stay motivated and on task?”
Set the Stage
Designating work time is often not enough. Help your teen identify the most productive workspace for her and remove distractions from the room such as TV, cell phones, and videogames. If she is not getting her work done at home, consider having her go to the library after school or on weekends. Sometimes, a change of environment, especially one conducive to completing work, is most effective.
Call in Reinforcements
Peer pressure can be powerful, in a good way! If her attention is waning, encourage your teen to find one or more friends who also need to study. Suggest they set up a work plan, such as taking a walk after school as a break and then heading to the library together. Study buddies, when committed to a common goal of productivity, can be a great influence on each other.
All-nighters and long study sessions without breaks translate to tired, unfocused students the next morning. Likewise, sleeping to avoid homework can be equally unhelpful. If you find your teen is not using sleep for appropriate self-care, have a conversation and plan for the best use of her time.
Thanks for all of the wonderful parenting you do to keep your teens happy, healthy, and balanced! As always, we are glad to be resources for you and happy to connect. We are your SMA counselors: Amy, Allison, and Anne.