Encourage your teen to put opinions in writing
Many teens are interested in solving problems and improving situations in the world around them. Whether the cause is the environment or money for a new school building, getting involved is a good opportunity for learning. When your teen shows enthusiasm for a cause, suggest writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. Your teen will get an outlet for self expression and practice organizing thoughts in writing.
Suggest questions that lead to good decisions
If your teen wants help making a decision, offer questions rather than answers. Encourage your teen to ask: Which choice would I be most proud of? What choice would a person I look up to make? How far into the future will each choice affect me? If others are involved, am I treating them the way I want to be treated? What will the results of each choice be? How will I deal with those consequences?
Challenge your children to resolve sibling conflicts
Do your kids fight often? Getting along with others and treating them respectfully is an important factor in school success. But learning to do that starts at home. To encourage this, explain to your children that you won't resolve minor conflicts for them. They must try to work together. Have them list and discuss issues that usually cause disagreements, and focus on solutions rather than blame.
Build your teen's enthusiasm for reading
By now, your teen is probably a competent reader. But students do better in school if they are enthusiastic readers, too. Encourage your teen to read for pleasure. Refresh the selection at home by bringing home a variety of reading materials from the library. You can also clip or print news articles about topics that might interest your teen and leave them in eye-catching places.
Watch out for extracurricular overload
A whole new world of activities opens up once a child reaches the teen years. And many teens dive right in. Activities build friendships, teach respect and can be an important part of a college application. But it's possible to overdo a good thing. As the new school year approaches, remember that if your teen has no downtime or is too tired to crack a book, it's time to cut back on non-academic activities.
Provide practice to improve social skills
Social skills can affect teens' success and happiness in school. But some teens aren't sure how to make and keep friends. If your teen isn't socially adept, don't force attendance at parties and big social events. Instead, help your teen connect with a few friends at a time. In addition, help your teen tune in to non-verbal messages. In a public place, for example, notice nearby people and talk with your teen about how they might be feeling based on their body language.
Teach your teen two criteria for wise decisions
From courses to colleges, the choices teens make can affect their future. Teach your teen to make decisions that are both conscious and informed. Conscious choices are the result of thought. Teens who make them recognize that choices can have positive and negative consequences. Informed choices are based on research and answers to questions like: What options are available? What could their results be?
Help your teen steer clear of negative peer pressure
Teens have a strong need to fit in. This means they may engage in risky behavior because "everyone else is doing it." To help your teen resist negative peer pressure, discuss your values and expectations. Get to know your teen's friends and their families. And while you can't fully control who your teen hangs out with, encourage involvement in positive groups, such as school clubs and volunteer groups.
Trial runs prepare your teen for new challenges
In the teen years, students do a lot of things for the first time, like driving to school or interviewing for a job. Boost your teen's self-confidence when facing these firsts by encouraging a trial run. For example, think of questions an interviewer might ask. Then role-play with your teen. If it isn't possible to do a practice run, talk your teen through the experience. Your student will have a clearer picture the steps to take, and that inspires confidence.
Give your teen some assignments at home
Teens learn a lot from doing chores, like responsibility, self-care and helpfulness. It's reasonable to expect teens to be responsible for getting themselves up, preparing their lunch, washing and drying their clothes, changing their sheets and managing their money. It's also reasonable to ask your teen to contribute to your family's wellbeing by doing tasks such as babysitting, washing dishes and working with you on projects around the house.
Decoding skills are key to reading new words
Before children can learn to read, they must learn the sounds letters make. Then they can begin to decode, or figure out, written words by sounding out each of the letters. To help your child practice decoding, point to a new word. Touch each letter from left to right, saying its sound. Then blend all the sounds together to pronounce the word. Make a game of decoding words together all around the house!
Sharing family history reinforces connections
Few things build family unity like remembering shared experiences. Ask your teen to keep a family journal. Provide a binder and encourage family members to share stories and photos of special times spent together with your teen. Then pull it out from time to time to look through it together and reminisce. Your teen may also enjoy making a time capsule of your family's current interests to rediscover in the future.
Right now is the right time to prepare for college
No matter what grade your teen is in, you can help with preparations for admission to college. Discuss careers and the education they require with a middle schooler. Encourage a freshman to get involved in clubs, volunteer work or sports. Help a sophomore research colleges online. Urge a junior to prepare for and take college entrance exams if needed for schools of interest. Make sure a senior knows every application and financial aid deadline. Check in with your teen's counselor each year to be sure your teen is taking the classes needed for graduation and college admittance.
Stop arguing when your decision is final
Now that your child is a teen, you may be able to compromise on many things, such as curfews and clothing that you couldn't in earlier years. But other things, such as those that affect safety, are still non-negotiable. When these cases come up, don't argue with your teen. Simply state your answer, give your reasons and then say the subject is closed. If your teen argues, acknowledge that you disagree, but make it clear that you won't change your mind.
Use upbeat music to wake your teen up
It's your teen's responsibility to get ready in time for school or other commitments every day. So make it clear that you won't be providing a wakeup call. Instead, let a favorite band help. Suggest waking up to a fast-paced song that will help energize your teen's body and mind. Limit morning background noise to music, though. Streaming videos and TV will distract your teen.
Volunteering is valuable experience
Volunteer activities can give your teen opportunities to show independence, take risks and shine, all while building a résumé. Informal activities, such as looking after a neighbor's child, are the easiest to find and may inspire your teen's desire to get more involved. More formal activities, such as a regular volunteer job, build responsibility and can help your teen explore a career field.
Mix enterprise and exercise to get your teen moving
Has your teen become a couch potato? Wouldn't exercise unless paid to? Well, maybe somebody WILL pay. Many odd jobs involve physical activity. Could your teen clean out a neighbor's garage? Or find jobs doing yardwork, like mowing lawns, planting shrubs or trimming bushes? Your teen might even work up a sweat babysitting an active child.
Help your teen establish a list-making habit
The emotional and physical changes that happen during the teen years can make many kids forgetful and disorganized. This is usually a temporary phase. But if your teen's memory needs a boost, encourage the habit of writing down lists. Suggest that your student make lists of favorite songs, restaurants, books, etc. Then your teen can carry the habit over to school and make lists of tasks and assignments.