It’s late October and the honeymoon is over. Your teen’s new-year-new-me mindset is cracking beneath the weight of to-do lists, ho-hum motivation, and a stacked schedule. Gone is the early September optimism, replaced by the thought that this school year will “literally” never end.
Well...here are four steps you can take to help them weather the late October Grind.
Revisit your teen’s goals. Of course, revisit implies that they have set goals. Set goals in the following timeframes: long-term (think college), yearly (think GPA goals) and weekly (actionable accomplishments). Thinking about goals is fine, but writing goals down takes them next level. I recommend using a sharpie and writing them down on their bathroom or bedroom mirror. Goals keep the eyes on the prize and have proven extraordinarily effective with my clients. Students that set and revisit goals make exponential progress in comparison to those simply winging it.
Audit course progress and define target areas of improvement. Most classes are graded within category weights. For example, tests might be worth 40% of a student’s total grade, and homework might be worth 10%. It’s extraordinarily helpful to understand where within the course more efforts are needed and what skills (like test taking or preparation skills) should be honed. Quite often, you will find one aspect of each course needs attention. This audit will drive resources and time management decisions.
Schedule teacher meetings. Not for you, for them. Based on your class category audit, and according to your student’s goals, teacher meetings are a crucial next step. Teacher meetings are important for two reasons: they allow students to take accountable steps in demonstrating their commitment to succeeding and they strengthen the student-teacher relationship. A common delay occurs when students feel uncomfortable seeking help from teachers or only go to see teachers in times of crisis. The shift from reactive meetings to regular ones can increase grades dramatically and boost academic confidence. I suggest a rotating meeting schedule, where students meet with one teacher each week so that they see all teachers around once per month. Teachers are great at encouraging students and helping them know best preparation practices. For example in math, a student might do well on homework but lack a foundational math skill that is ruining their test scores.
Live in routine. Teens thrive in structure and flounder in free-choice. Not to say they don’t need or deserve downtime (they do), but those times should be within a larger scripted and well-monitored routine. Using a piece of paper, divide your teen’s week (by day) into 1-2 hour increments from 7:00 am - 10:00 pm. Next, fill in their obligations (school, sports, rehearsals, tutors, church etc.). Remaining, you will find pockets of time that should be separated into 4 remaining categories: study time, homework time, family time, and free time. Notice that study time and homework time are not the same. Homework time is great, it’s what’s handed in for credit. Study time, however, needs to be a separate concept rooted in long-term planning and be consumed with activities like re-reading dense chapters, creating outlines, being quizzed with flashcards, completing practice problems and gearing up for final exams. Again, use your child’s goals, grades, category weight audit, teacher meetings and real-time grades to plan the amount and depth required to study. Routine always wins.