Few would question the advantage that positive parental involvement can give a teenager in reaching academic success. For concerned parents, however, the practical details of effective educational involvement might not be so obvious. Willingness to help is certainly the first step, but actually knowing what to do is the necessary second one.
Before mapping out a detailed course of action for getting involved with your teen’s education, there are a few basic principles that should be considered. First of all, your teen is far more likely to be successful in school if you get involved in his education long before he is a teen. If you have been absent from your child’s learning experience thus far, get involved now, no matter how old he is, because your participation will almost certainly bring some improvement whenever it begins. Be warned, though, that you can’t expect significantly higher grades to come quickly and easily. Often, as teens struggle to get and keep first jobs, to learn to drive, to win peer (and self) acceptance and to control those raging hormones, very little energy remains for caring about academics at all, a situation that certainly doesn’t lend itself to a quick rise from poor grades to the head of the class.
Also, you must find a middle course between lacking interest and being too demanding.
Let your teen know that you expect her to put forth her best effort, but don’t hold her to unrealistic expectations. Know your child’s abilities and weaknesses. Praise her whenever you can, and not just for good grades, but also for a good effort and for noticeable improvement. Realize that not every child can be the valedictorian. Focus on your teen fulfilling her own personal potential and be proud of her for it.
Now, you’re ready to get involved. What exactly do you do? To help your child make the most of his education, educate yourself, and keep up with what’s going on. Go to school activities, like orientations and meetings of the parent/teacher association, so you can get to know your school’s teachers, counselors and administrators. Find out what is expected from your teen by the school in general and by each of his teachers. Learn what academic paths your school offers, such as college preparatory and vocational, and consult a school counselor to ensure that your teen is on the best course for his needs, goals and abilities. Talk to your child, and his teachers if necessary, to keep informed about school assignments, projects, papers and tests. Make sure your student is completing the homework that’s due, consistently reviewing class material and working on projects and studying for tests in advance. Check his homework sometimes, quiz him on test material, help him proofread his papers. Find out what materials your teen is expected to have for each class, and help him acquire necessary school supplies ahead of time. Know your child’s schedule, and be sure he’s present and on time with the appropriate materials.
A common obstacle in the way of teen academic success is the opinion that school is irrelevant to real life and thus not worth the effort. Use the knowledge that you have gained through your years in the “real world” to help your teen see how the subjects she is studying can actually help her succeed in life. Give her solid examples of how the skills she is required to master in school can help her perform basic daily tasks of self-sufficiency, develop a rewarding career and live a fuller and more enjoyable life. Do some research on the statistics on the correlation between school performance and income. Quash the common teen misconception that a person can perform poorly in school and still easily get a job that will pay them enough to live the high life. Few teens want to be poor and in a miserable job. Help your teen set goals. Explore career options with her and determine educational requirements for college admittance, necessary certifications and entrance into the desired field of work. Clear goals make it far easier to put out the required effort for good grades.
There are also ways you can help your teen reach academic success that aren’t specifically academic themselves. Establish rules to prevent your teen’s family and social life from getting in the way of good grades. Make sure that completing school work takes precedence over watching television, hanging out with friends and participating in recreation activities. Don’t let your teen’s job interfere with school performance. Working during the teen years can have many benefits, but if keeping a job prevents your teen from succeeding in school, he might be stuck in his teen job when he should be moving on to a full-time, adult career. Be careful not to reward your student’s efforts and good grades with gifts or activities that will be counterproductive to academic success. If he gets a good grade on a math test, don’t buy him a ticket to a heavy metal concert the night before his next big test. Help your teen deal with non-academic issues that are stressing him to cut down on distractions from his school work. Try to remember what it was like to be a teenager and the particular stresses that teens face, and do what you can to build and maintain your child’s mental and emotional well-being. As much as you are able, love your teen and give him a stable and happy home.
If you’ve established a positive environment for learning and your teen is still bringing home bad grades, then troubleshoot. Make sure that there are no personal, social or family problems that are contributing to her academic struggles. Get your teen’s hearing and eyesight checked if it seems that they might be challenged. If your child’s study skills don’t seem effective, then help her develop better ones. Consult teachers and counselors and your own knowledge from past educational endeavors to determine useful learning methods. The local library might offer resources to develop study skills, and you can likely find good students from among your teen’s peers who offer tutoring services for reasonable prices and can share their own study methods. If there is a class that is causing your teen particular difficulty, find out what the problem is. Start by simply talking to your teen. Does she have personal problems with the teacher or conflicts with the teacher’s teaching style? Is something or someone creating a distraction for her? Especially if the class is an early one, is she eating a good breakfast and sleeping enough to be well and alert? Did your teen fail to master some previously-taught topic that is necessary for understanding the new material? If talking to your teen doesn’t produce results in your search for the problem, talk to her teacher. Once the problem is determined, you and your teen and, if appropriate for the particular problem, her teacher and/or school counselors and administrators can work together to find a solution. If you try all these routes and still can’t find the root of the problem, talk to your teen’s school counselors about testing her for learning disabilities. If she is diagnosed to have a learning disability, these counselors and perhaps your child’s doctor should be able to help you determine what your child needs to overcome it and succeed.
Finally, if you, the parent, are doing everything you can to help your child with his education, and if your teen is holding up his end of the deal, but success still isn’t there, remember that the problem might not be with either you or your child. Look at the academic path your child is following and the courses he is taking to determine if he needs a change. If the problem remains, your teen’s school might actually be the one who is failing. It will be a big, possibly scary, and possibly pricey step, but if there’s a way, find your child another school, whether public or private. Explore your options, and the answer could be as simple as finding out from your local board of education how to transfer to another school within the same system. Whether the move is easy and free or difficult and expensive, do whatever is reasonably within your means to find a school that makes the grade so your teen can make the grade.