4 Ways to Guide Your Teen to New Academic Heights
This is an article that was written for the Hyde School blog. We hope you find it as valuable as we do! -Pam
Being a teenager has never been easy. It’s a short period of rapid growth that comes equipped with major changes, new responsibilities, the pressure to make decisions, and big expectations of what’s to come. As your teenager makes the transition from child to adult, from star student to university hopeful, it’s hard to know just how to help the transition along. Parenting, like adolescence, isn’t always easy. Though Hyde School is already an excellent place for a blooming student, it’s natural that you still want to go to the extra mile to ensure your teen’s health, happiness, and success.
According to the Harvard Family Research Project, there is a consistent correlation between parental involvement and the academic achievement of their children, regardless of age. Their research indicates that “the facets of parental involvement that required a large investment of time, such as reading and communicating with one’s child, and the more subtle aspects of parental involvement, such as parental style and expectations” were the kinds of involvement that were most strongly linked to the child’s achievement.
Here are some of the ways that you, as a parent, can guide your teen to new academic heights:
1. Help build your teen’s self-confidence.
The College Foundation of North Carolina notes that self-confidence and success are closely related. Mark Leary, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, says that one of the keys to the close relationship is that self-confidence helps individuals develop the belief that their goals are attainable. As your teen’s self-confidence grows, the more things they will envision themselves capable of doing. Instead of, “I don’t know if I can ace this exam,” your teen’s approach will be, “I can ace this exam – and I will do what I need to make it so.”
The way you parent your teen can have a big impact on their confidence levels. Today’s Parent says that some of the best ways to raise a confident teen is to let your children take “healthy risks” and make their own choices, offer praise when it is merited (but never when it is not – overpraising can cause more harm than good), and let them know that you love them no matter what. Adolescence is a time of testing boundaries. Allow your teen to play with the parameters so they can learn for themselves how to be competent individuals – all while being backed with your support. Letting your teen be challenged will provide them with the experience to build confidence and thus experience success.
2. Set expectations for your teen – but make sure they’re realistic.
Setting boundaries and expectations for your adolescent is a balancing act. If you set the expectations too low, you may undermine your teen’s abilities and make them feel as if you don’t have faith in them. If you set the bar too high, they will feel pressure to achieve something that they aren’t capable of – and will feel pressured and stressed. Expectations that are too high will make your teen feel like they’ve let you (and themselves) down, which could create tension in your relationship. Expectations should be empowering, not inhibiting.
According to Melbourne Child Psychology, a good step towards setting realistic expectations is to first gauge what is feasible for your teen. Talk to your teen’s teachers and ask about what they’re excelling in and which areas they could improve upon. From there, you can talk to your teen and work out expectations with them. Questions like, “What kind of grade are you hoping to get on that paper?” and “how do you plan on achieving that goal?” are great ways to set expectations that are realistic. It’s a conversation, too, that could show your teen that you’re interested in their goals without putting undue pressure on them.
3. Pay attention to the things that your teen is passionate about – and encourage them to explore that passion.
When you ask your teen how their day was and what they’re learning at school, pay special attention to what gets them the most excited. Though high school is a place for well-rounded (rather than extremely specialized) learning, and that well-roundedness is important, now is the time for discovering what your teen excels at and what interests them.
These considerations are especially important as university application time approaches. If your teen never mentions math but speaks animatedly about what they’re learning in history, probe them about history class. Encourage them to explore what interests them and develop their skills in that area.
Teenagers are facing a difficult crossroads where they must decide what they want out of their future. It’s hard for them to know which path to take. Encouraging them to develop the things that they feel passionate about will help them solidify their own understandings of what piques their interest and merits further exploration. “Maybe you should read a little bit more into that, if you like it so much!” can turn into a phone call later down the road that your teen has decided on their major for university.
Passion and enthusiasm are key to success in the academic, work, and personal realms of one’s life.
4. Remember that your teen is a unique individual with their own strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
One of the most challenging parts of adolescence is the process of developing and understanding one’s identity. The direction in life a teenager is going to take is informed by their understanding of who they are and how that fits into the world. It is vital that you take your child’s identity into consideration.
What worked for you may not work for them. What worked for their older brother or sister may not work for them. Your teen’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, passions, indifferences, learning styles, and desires are as unique as they are. Always keep in mind that your support and love is always needed and appreciated, but that your teen needs the space to have some say in their life. Work to understand your teen’s idiosyncrasies and tailor your support to their uniqueness. This acceptance and support for who they are will help them feel comfortable taking those healthy risks and making their own way.
All parents want what’s best for their children, no matter their age or abilities. As you work to help your teenager achieve new academic heights, be sure to always remind them that they are loved and supported, but give them room to develop competence and independence. Challenges lead to growth and growth is a vital part of your teen’s academic and character education.