High school is a time filled with lots of hard work, friendships, challenges, and growing up—and some say it goes by way too fast (for parents and teens alike!). High school will be over before you know it, and whether it’s your teen’s goal to attend college, complete an apprenticeship or certification, enter the workforce, or enlist in the military, we all want to raise morally upstanding, hard-working citizens who will be self-sufficient. From kindergarten through the 12th grade, not only do we want our students to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, we also want them to develop into self-advocates, problem solvers, analytical thinkers, communicators, and team players.
As a parent of a high schooler, it can be hard to know where exactly the line is between helping and stepping back. With increased homework loads and responsibilities, teens are learning how to manage their time and complete their work—all skills they’ll need no matter what their future holds. How they handle their homework is actually a big test in their ability to do these things. You may ask yourself, what’s my role in helping my high schooler with their homework? Should I even be doing it at all? Here are some tips to help you help them.
Offer homework advice only when needed. Don’t be the helicopter mom or the snowplow dad. Hovering over your child or plowing a trail for their success may seem like a good idea at the time, but only leads to problems in the long run. As high schoolers, students should be able to organize their coursework and complete assignments on time. It is important that your student learns how to ask for help when they do not understand class material. It is also important that they become a self-advocate and seek out teacher assistance when struggling with concepts. If your student asks you for help, it’s okay to offer some guidance without giving them all the answers provide your expertise. High school is a time that accelerates the parent/child separation process However, if your student does not want your help, no need to be offended.
If your student is struggling with homework, encourage them to seek out other support at school. Does the school have a peer tutoring program? Do teachers offer test review sessions? Is there a resource room or writing lab where students can get extra help? Would your student be interested in starting a study group? As a last resort, you may want to ask your student if they would be interested in seeing a private tutor, if possible. Because this can be an expensive resource, make sure your student is motivated to get this extra help.
Keep communication open about classes and grades. Some students will avoid their parents’ support, not because they have it under control but because they have found other things to occupy their time. Unfortunately, some students go down the wrong path in high school and make poor choices. Some spend too much time playing video games, avoiding their responsibilities, and/or using drugs and alcohol, just to name a few potential pitfalls. While you shouldn’t hover over your child, it’s okay to check up on your student and see how he or she is doing in school. One of the best ways to check the progress of your student is to become familiar with the online parent portal of the school’s student information system. Here, you can check on your student’s grades and attendance. I encourage parents to have a weekly conversation with their student and review grades and attendance from the past week together. In addition, try to talk about more than just grades. What classes are their favorite? Can they see themselves doing something related to their favorite class in the future? What did they learn about in class today? If their homework and classes are part of a larger conversation, it becomes less about checking in on how they are performing, and more of a dialogue about how their workload and classes relate to their future.
Encourage balance with work and extracurricular activities. Students who are busy tend to use their time wisely and stay on top of their studies. Not only do many school extracurricular activities require certain grades for participation, it is also a great way for students to be held accountable beyond the teacher’s classroom or parents’ expectations. Students who participate in school clubs, activities, and sports typically have a strong network of friends.
To get started, have your student select a club that relates to their interests. If your student complains that all of the clubs are “lame or boring,” encourage your student to find an adult in the school to help them start a club that would be enjoyable. Working together within a club or on a sports team to accomplish a goal is an important skill to have for life after high school, in addition to learning to balance work and play.
If your student is adamant about not participating in something at school, encourage them to get involved in the community. This can include a part-time job or donating time to a community service project or club. Extracurricular activities, leadership positions, work, and community service are all looked upon positively on a college or scholarship application.
Allow your student to fail. Ultimately, if your high schooler doesn’t complete their work, it’s on them.The homework battle is not worth the stress it places on the student/parent relationship. In my twenty plus years of working in education, I have never seen a student motivated by a parent nagging on them. Usually, the parent is frustrated with the student’s lack of school success so the lecturing begins. For whatever reason, and there are many, all of the energy the parent is putting into the lecturing and nagging is ignored by the student. Many times, my students want to upset their parents because they cannot stand their parents’ pressure. It becomes a power struggle and the student usually loses because they end up hurting their own GPA. When parents let their students know that they’re there for them but it’s ultimately up to the student to succeed, students tend to figure it out. It can be an ugly year or two of high school, but eventually, students figure it out and learn from their mistakes.
Life after high school is a difficult time to navigate, but that’s what high school is ultimately for—helping students learn to survive and thrive in the world on their own. Learning from failure builds resiliency, teaches problem-solving skills, and provides the student confidence that when things get difficult, they can endure.