FIVE STRATEGIES FOR A MORE COHESIVE FAMILY SYSTEM
1) Gather information. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. As a family, take stock of all that needs to be accomplished heading into the school year. Sit down with your student and audit their impending obligations. Many schools assign summer reading, or even in-depth assignments for Advanced Placement courses. Paralysis by analysis is common with overwhelmed teens. I recommend using a large desk-style calendar that affords plenty of room for mapping, marking, erasing, crossing-out. Often, students avoid providing specifics, so, utilize teacher websites, school websites, parents with kids one year ahead and overachieving peers, to gather relevant information. Don’t do this for, but with, your student. Leave the calendar in plain view as both a reminder and to provide for quick access as the weeks evolve.
2) Create a weekly accountability calendar. I’m a huge fan of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed). Many teens don’t do well with long-term planning. Additionally, vague, long-term markers are difficult to monitor as a parent. Making smaller goals is more effective. Let’s take summer reading for example. A SMART goal outlines how many pages they will read, how you can validate their reading (think annotations), it establishes a realistic amount of reading (ex: 20 pages per day), and it clarifies the time in which it must get done (think per day). SMART goals should be created by the student with the help of an adult. By creating their own markers and timeline, a greater sense of ownership is established. If you want a template for SMART goals, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3) Categorize and label. It’s helpful to organize the types of tasks and activities your student has to or wants to do. Let’s call their assigned or mandatory tasks intentions. Intentions are specific action items, some by choice, some by obligations which they have committed to do. This could include sports, chores, family travel and school work. All of the activities your student wants to do we will call integrations. Integrations include hanging out with friends, playing video games, using their iPhones, and sleeping in. As you plan their week, categorize their tasks and activities into either intentions or integrations. If they only have intentions it might be time to embed more opportunity for soul-feeding options, and if they only have integrations it’s time to dial in on goals. In short, strive for balance.
4) Consider an alpha day. Every teen deserves a day off, right? One strategy to explore is embedding one day for your student to formally decompress. With impacted weeks and busy schedules, it might have to be a half-day. In essence an alpha day is a time for permissive slacking when your teen has no major to-do’s. Preemptively identifying a day of rest, decreases conflict and also elevates the importance of utilizing their other outlined responsibilities. Alpha days make excellent incentives for autonomy and responsible task completion.
5) Customize as needed. These are simply suggestions and tools I use with many families; I know them to extremely beneficial. That said, families have unique dynamics and what works for one family, might not stick with another. Take bits and pieces of the above and mold them to fit your needs. Simply stated, building systems within your family will undeniably increase your student’s capacity and decrease conflict.