Back to School Tips

CB037609Every parent wants their child to have a great school year, but that doesn’t always happen without a little work. If you have teenagers heading to middle or high school this coming Fall, there are some steps you can take to help your teen thrive in the upcoming school year! Here are some great back-to-school tips:

Teach Teens to Get Enough Rest

Approximately 69 out of 100 high school students get insufficient sleep, which scientists consider as seven hours of sleep or less on an average school night. Having an adequate amount of sleep is so important to your teen’s overall wellbeing and their ability to succeed in school. Studies show that:

  • Adolescents who go to sleep at midnight or later are 25% more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Students who get only 5-6 hours of sleep each night were twice as likely to say they’d driven while drinking in the previous month, compared to kids who regularly got a full night’s sleep.
  • Teens who are not getting enough sleep are more likely to exhibit unhealthy behavior with eating and/or experimenting with drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
  • Students who reported that they were getting C’s or lower in school obtained about 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed about 40 minutes later than students who reported they were getting A’s and B’s.

Students need approximately 9 hours of sleep to be at their best. Read our previous blog for tips on how to help your teen get enough rest: Sleepy Adolescents.

Encourage Students to Eat Breakfast and Lunch

According to the American Dietetic Association, more than half of male teens and more than two-thirds of female teens do not eat breakfast on a regular basis. Skipping meals actually makes your body over-eat later in the day. Teens often think that if they skip a meal, then they’re going to lose weight, but the truth is that regular meals help control weight, mood and the ability to concentrate. Breakfast, in particular, gives students the fuel they need to focus on their school work. Encourage teens to eat three meals and two snacks a day, and if they’re concerned about weight, teach them to monitor the amount they eat at each sitting. If your teen does not like to eat breakfast, encourage them to consider eating a small protein bar on the way to school. If your teen dislikes the school lunch, give them lots of options for packing a lunch to take with them.

Get Organized

You can significantly reduce your teen’s stress with a little organization. Purchase school supplies before school begins. Suggest that your teen get color-coded binders to use for each class and use those same colors for everything related to that subject area. Make a calendar and have them use those subject colors to mark down assignments. You can use a different color to write down appointments.

Create a Family Routine

Even youth thrive on a routine, so before school has started, sit down with your teen and establish one that works for your whole family. Set up a schedule for the morning that gets everyone out the door on time with as little stress as possible and a schedule for after school that ensures there is enough time to complete homework and participate in extracurricular activities. Be careful that you do not overcommit your family with many activities that will be hard to reign in later.

Suggest Greater Involvement

Encourage your teen to get involved with their school community because it helps them to:

  • pursue their interests and gain new skills,
  • improve their college resume,
  • meet people who have similar interests,
  • exercise their brain or body, depending on the activity, and
  • develop responsibility and school pride.

Many studies have shown that students who are involved in sports and school activities are able to achieve higher grades. If your student enjoys playing sports, they should try out for the school team. If your teen is a musician or actor, then have them consider joining their school band or theatre company. Find a list of school clubs and suggest your teen attend a meeting of one that interests them. If their school doesn’t offer anything that interests them, suggest they talk to their school administrators and start a club.

Attend Orientation

Do not skip the orientations and open houses before school begins, even if your child has already been a student there. Visit your teen’s classrooms, meet the teachers and learn the layout of the school. Your teen will feel more comfortable about going back to school if they have a good sense of where everything is located (e.g. classes, cafeteria, gym, lockers, etc.), and it’s a great way to meet other students.

Suggest They Sit Up Front in Class

Encourage your teen to sit near the front or middle of the class if the teacher does not assign seats. Sitting in the back offers teens more distractions from the teacher and can actually impact their ability to understand the material either from not being able to hear everything the teacher says or not being able to see everything on the board.

Create a Homework Area

Students who are organized and have a useful study area are more likely to get better grades. Before school begins, work with your teen to establish a space in your home designated for their homework. It could be a desk in their room, an area in your home office, or any other quiet location with ample room that is free of distractions. The more involved you make your teen in setting up their homework area, the happier they will be about going to school and studying at home. De-clutter the area they choose, stock it with school supplies (notepads, pencils, pens, highlighters, note cards, binders, stapler, etc.), and organize a project bin for their work. Let them decorate it to make it their own.

Prepare for the Next Day

Make it routine to prepare everything for school the night before. School supplies should be organized.  Backpacks should be packed and waiting by the door. Lunches should be made. Clothes should be decided on and laid out. The routine provides teens stability and helps calm any nerves, plus, it provides a calm morning for the first day – no rushing around in a panic!

Encourage Academic Goals

Studies show that teens who set goals at the beginning of each school year are more likely to succeed academically and have a more positive attitude about school than those who do not set goals. Encourage your teen to write out a list of goals, big and small, that they might like to achieve for the upcoming school year. Goals could include improving their grades, earning a spot on one of the school’s sports teams, or landing a role in the school play. Once your teen develops their goals, help them to break their larger goal down into action steps. Teach them how to plan and prepare to achieve their best.

You can learn more about this topic by reading our previous blog: Setting Goals for School Success.

Ease Anxiety

Whenever people encounter a new place or new situation, they naturally feel nervous and excited. Remind your teen that they are not the only student who is feeling uneasy or unhappy about returning to school. Acknowledge their feelings, but also point out the positives, such as seeing old friends or meeting new ones. Refresh their memory of positive things at school from the previous year. Remind them of other times they felt nervous and how everything worked out really well. One of the best ways for parents to help their teens feel better is to connect their coming school year with something real that your teen has already accomplished. For example, you might say, “Jane, this could be a really great year for you because you worked so hard in science class last year” or “Dylan, that time you put into algebra last year is really going to pay off when you start high school.” The statements you make should be realistic and specific.

For more information on how to help your teen ease their back-to-school anxiety, please read our previous blog on this subject: Addressing Back-to-School Fears.

Final Thoughts…

Some teens are excited and motivated about school, while others are not. If you have a teen who is unhappy about attending school, please consider reading our previous blog: 6 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Positive Attitude About School.

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