Help Teens have Success in School

      Adolescent and Couples Counselor, Yshai Boussi, says we can help our teenagers succeed in school by having key conversations with them now.

      He stopped by to share his tips...which you can also read on Yshai's blog and below:

      Five Conversations Every Parent Should Have With Their Teen About School

      There's no better time to start talking about school with your teen. Putting your child in the best
      position for a good year will require a series of conversations about important aspects of school,
      and the sooner you start the better. Starting these conversations now will give you and your
      teen plenty of time to think about, plan and get on the same page for the upcoming year. We've
      identified five key aspects of school that we think each deserve their own set of conversations.
      They are: Sleep, Academics, Family, Friends and Activities.

      1. Sleep. Numerous studies on the subject have consistently shown that the optimal amount of
      sleep for teens is between 9 and 9.5 hours per night. The average teen gets less than seven.
      According to the research, more sleep means better grades, less moodiness and irritability and
      has an overall positive effect on physical health. If 9.5 hours of sleep a night seems unrealistic
      on a school night, just focus on getting as close as possible. Even a 30 minute improvement can
      make a difference. Helping your teen get a good night sleep may be the single best thing you
      can do to help them have a good year.

      Some questions to ask your teen are:

      • How much sleep is realistic to expect?
      • What are someof the obstacles or challenges that get in the way (prepare for conversation about phone/technology)?
      • How can we help make sure you get that each night? What should we do if that starts to slip?

      2. Grades. While this is obviously an important issue, it's also very loaded. Teens often shut
      down or get defensive when this topic comes up. This is one reason why it's so important to get
      a handle on it now. If you approach your teen in a calm and curious way about their thoughts
      and expectations about academic achievement, you'll significantly increase the chance that
      they'll be positive and open to your input and support along the way. Teens are often much
      more receptive to specific goals about academic achievements (ex: improve my creative
      writing, learn enough Spanish to be able to go to hold a five minute conversation or improve my
      knowledge of American History). Try not to just focus on the outcome (the grade itself) but what
      your teen wants to learn along the way.

      Some questions to ask your teen:

      • How are you feeling/thinking about the upcoming schoolyear?
      • What are your academic goals for the year?
      • How do you plan to accomplish that?
      • What level of involvement on my part would be helpful?
      • What should we do if you fall short?

      3. Family. Spending regular relaxing time with your teen is the best way to inoculate them
      from the pressures school and peer relationships may bring. Family time builds self-esteem,
      a sense of value, a place to be themselves, improves decision making and is something
      they really want. The two most frequent objections we hear from parents are, yes but... "his
      homework and activities and our work schedule make it difficult." or "getting our grumpy teen
      to do something with us is so much work, then she just complains, it's not even worth it". If you
      fall into the first category than something may need to give, perhaps your teen will need to cut
      back on something (not sleep) or you will. If you're struggling with the second objection, then
      it will be important that you find new ways to involve them in family life. This may mean finding
      activities that they'll enjoy, standing your ground or making time to focus on fun and letting go of
      expectations and life lessons. For more ideas about connecting with your teen, read our article
      about how to find positive ways to connect with your teen.

      Some questions to ask your teen:

      • I want to make sure we continue to find time to spend together, what ideas do you have to do that?
      • I was thinking it would be nice to ____ together once a week/month. What do you think?
      • It's important to me that we have dinner together at least once or twice per week, when do you think would be the best days for that?
      • Is there anything that you'd like to do together that we haven't done in a while?

      4. Friends. Your teen's friends are likely the focus of their life right now. School is more social
      than academic for most kids. This can be great when it involves group studying and projects,
      support with difficult decisions and developing social skills. However, as you know, this can
      also be the source of experimenting with drugs, alcohol and/or sex. It can lead to bullying,
      depression, painful break-ups and exclusion. For teens who have few friends or are bullied,
      school can be especially painful. For all these reasons, it's imperative that you start the
      conversation with your teen about their social world. The sooner you get ahead of this the
      better the outcome will be. If you haven't already, make an effort to get to know their friends and
      understand their social life. Make your house teen friendly, this could pay huge dividends once
      school gets going.

      Some questions to ask your teen:

      • Who are you hanging out with these days (hopefully you already know this)?
      • What are you hoping/expecting to be able to do with friends?
      • Curfews? Parties? School nights? Weekends?Overnights?
      • How are you going to balance your boyfriend/girlfriend with everything else?

      5. Activities. Extra curricular activities are an essential way to develop social skills, job
      skills, self-discipline, "real life" experience, and self-esteem. However, when a teen's ability
      and personality doesn't match the activities they're involved with, the benefits can turn sour.
      Teens who are overscheduled or participating in activities for the wrong reasons often end
      up quitting, feeling resentful, dropping out of other areas such as school or family or begin to
      see themselves as failures or inadequate. It's important to talk with your teen about their after
      school activities and help them make decisions that they'll enjoy and will challenge them without
      overwhelming them. When having this conversation, keep in mind your child's unique skill set,
      temperament and frustration tolerance. Avoid the temptation to compare your child to other
      Some questions to ask your teen:

      • What extra-curricular activities do you want to do this year?
      • What about that sounds fun?
      • How will you fit that in with these other priorities?

      We understand how easy it is to put these types of conversations off. Your teen may try to
      convince you that they've got it all under control, something they're very good at. That is until
      you see their report card, find them in tears or find their moodiness has worn thin. Teens
      really do need us to help them think beyond today, and develop the skills to anticipate and be
      thoughtful about what lies ahead. Starting these conversations early allows for plenty of time
      to approach these potentially hot button issues in different ways, with more thoughtfulness and
      less reactivity, while also allowing your teen time to reflect and participate in the process.