5 Tips to Start the New School Year Off Right

It’s the beginning of the school year and your teen is heading off to a new grade and possibly a new school. Getting the new school year off to a great start was fairly simple when your teenager was younger; you bought the items on the supply list, provided a homework area for your child, and kept in contact with the teacher. Now that your teen is in middle school or high school, however, he or she usually has several teachers, harder courses, extracurricular activities, perhaps an after-school job, and new social issues to keep track of. Consider these tips on helping your teen start off the new school year on the right foot.

1. Make Sure Academic Expectations Are Clear

At this point in your child’s life, he or she is mostly responsible for academic success (or failure). Still, as a parent, it’s important that you set clear expectations when it comes to academics. Let your teen know what you expect. While not every student is going to have a 4.0 (or even a 3.0) GPA, your child should at least be doing his or her homework, meeting with teachers for extra help when required, and attending school each day (barring illness, of course). Doing these three things will help your student keep up with the rest of the class.

It’s also important to listen to your teen’s expectations and to suggest adjustments when necessary. For example, if your child has struggled with grade-level English, then taking an AP English class might not set him or her up for success. On the other hand, a student who has excelled in math should not hesitate to stretch his or her mathematical muscles by taking harder classes. Encourage your teen to talk to his or her guidance counselor if there are any problems with the difficulty level of classes chosen.

2. Work on Time Management Techniques

Teenagers often need help managing their time. The goal is that by the end of high school, your teen will be able to set priorities and properly manage their time. Until then, however, it’s normal for parents to have to step in and model good techniques for setting priorities and getting everything completed.

At the beginning of the new school year, talk to your teen about choosing and using a planner of some type. Encourage them to write down assignments and to fill out a calendar. It’s likely that your teen’s social life and extracurricular activities will sometimes clash with what other family members are doing, so it can be helpful to set up a family calendar. This will help with arranging for rides or the use of the family vehicles.

3. Talk About Social-Life Expectations

Your teenager might be going to school this year with a large group of friends. He or she also might be going in after a year that was tough in terms of social life. Whether your teen is popular or has dealt with social anxiety or bullying, you can encourage him or her to look at this upcoming year as a fresh start.

The beginning of a new school year is also a great time to set new rules and boundaries when it comes to your teen’s social life. There will be various activities that they’ll want to participate in, and it’s up to you to set limits where necessary. Consider the following:

  • What is your child’s weekday curfew?
  • How about on the weekends?
  • Are they allowed to go on group dates or individual dates?
  • Will there be consequences that limit your teen’s social freedom if certain requirements are not met?

Talk about all of these issues so you and your child are on the same page.

4. Decide on Extracurricular Activities and Part-Time Jobs

One of the most fun parts of the high school experience for most teens is that they can socialize with their peers during extracurricular activities. Whether your teenager belongs to a sports team, the drama club, the chess club, or the band, he or she is going to be making memories with friends. There’s evidence that teens who are involved in sports are less likely to get involved in drugs or alcohol. Encourage your adolescent to join one or more extracurricular activities and to make the most of the opportunity.

Part-time jobs are another issue that many teens encounter during the high school years. You’ll need to determine whether your teen is allowed to work during the school year. If it interferes with homework and extracurricular activities, it might not be a good idea. On the other hand, a part-time job teaches responsibility and good time management. Talk to your teen about your expectations and any concerns that you have regarding this topic.

5. Check in Regularly to Keep Things on Track

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that talking about these issues once at the beginning of the new school year is enough. You need to continue the conversations, tweaking things as you go. For example, your teen might need to switch out classes or might decide to join an extracurricular activity or get an after-school job midway through the year. His or her social life might suddenly get busier or less busy at a certain point. Maybe their grades will fall and you’ll need to make adjustments. While August or September is a good time to begin making changes, it’s not the only time. Reassess each quarter or after the end of the first semester and change up the routine as needed.

In Conclusion

The start of a new school year is an exciting time but it can also be stressful. Give your teen some extra leeway during the first few weeks of school as he or she adjusts to the new schedule and gets their sleeping pattern back to normal after the carefree days of summer. Also, don’t be afraid to give yourself some extra leeway: Although your teen is handling much of the responsibility on their own, you will still likely be driving them around more and otherwise putting more on your plate.

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