Ahhhh, high school. The land of growing teenagers, new stressors, and navigating a budding social life. As an outsider, parents can struggle to find the right words to say to encourage their teens. The fact is, it can be tough to know how to best support a high school student, but now, more than ever, kids rely on the adults in their lives to help them navigate the challenges of high school life.
It’s easy to understand why teens can get easily overwhelmed. From being expected to:
- Perform well in school and on tests like the SAT;
- Maintain a social life;
- Figure out what they want to do when they graduate;
- Balance a part-time job;
- and whatever else they have on their plate!
It can be a lot for a teen, and often they shut down under the stress of learning how to cope with this delicate balance. For many, this is the first time they will see how they cope with the stress of this magnitude.
This is why parents must do what they can to support a high school student. But, what is the best and most effective way to do it? This guide will outline seven of the most useful tips to help parents support a high school-aged teen in their home.
Are There Benefits When I Support a High School Student?
Absolutely, yes! There are so many benefits when you support a high school student. Beyond forging a healthier and more authentic relationship with them, you will also be helping them be more successful in school.
Studies show that when parents and guardians are more involved in a teen’s life that:
- Test scores improve;
- attendance is better;
- teens are generally happier;
- and they are more likely to stay away from dangerous activities.
I have seen it a hundred times, parents think, “oh my kid is nearly an adult, so they need to act like it. It’s not my job to micromanage them anymore”. And it’s absolutely true. It’s not a parent’s job to manage their teen under a microscope.
But try to remember your own understanding of the world at 16. Did you know how to file taxes? How to navigate bullying constructively? Did you know how to talk about your feelings?
Most of adult’s maturity is because we have had time to grow and develop. When you support a high school student, you are saying, “Hey, we’re in a partnership here. I will expect you to be responsible, but if you need anything, I care about you”.
Just like teaching a toddler to walk, you will stand behind in the shadows, ready to jump in if they need it. But you also are willing to let them start navigating life on their own too.
Tip 1: Participate in School Activities
Many activities in high school are fun. Football games, plays, and even art exhibits are a great way to participate in your child’s schooling.
But to best support a high school student, you must also be willing to participate in things like parent-teacher conferences, back to school night, and more.
When parents are invested in their child’s education, everybody understands that you’re taking it seriously. Students will work more consistently (and sometimes harder). Teachers will know that they have somebody to call if they have a concern. And you will not be surprised when conferences roll around by a low grade or behavior problem.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also participate in the fun events held at the school. Sporting events, robotics matches, and debates are a great way for your child to showcase their passions for you to see. This is also important if you want to let your child know that you support them.
Talk with coaches, teammates, and encourage them to pursue extracurriculars that interest them.
When you participate in the events at the school, your student will know that they can’t slip under your radar. This is great news, and doesn’t have to be negative! You want to teach your child that when they do something, they’re really proud of (like a presentation on the effects of drugs on the human body, for instance), that you will notice!
Tip 2: Know the School and Teachers
When a person gets a new job, they take time to make sure they understand all of the dynamics of the physical parts of the job. They know where to park, who to report to, and where the bathroom and cafeteria are at.
This necessary information helps a new employee to move throughout their day without a lot of stress.
These are the types of things you should also want to know when you support a high school student. Take time to learn about where the front office, nurse, and cafeteria is. Figure out where you should park if you need to go into school.
Then, get a copy of your child’s schedule, find their class websites, bell schedule, and information about their extracurriculars.
Having this information will help you get a full understanding of their day-to-day life at school. If your child needs to go to the doctor, you will be able to schedule it so they can make it back to school in time for their big test in 4th period.
If they are sick, you will be able to email their teachers directly and get any missing work.
Understanding how the building operates will make it easier to support a high school student and help them be successful with their education.
Tip 3: Lay the Foundations for a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Establishing a good work-life balance is a skill that many adults have a difficult time managing. The fact is, high school students have a few short years before they are in college, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is even more difficult.
There are many ways to support a high school student when teaching work-life balance. Here are some things to consider:
- Teach the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. Encourage a nutritious breakfast.
- Set limits on extracurriculars to avoid unnecessary stress. This could also include an after-school job. Students should not be working 30 hours in addition to their responsibilities with school if they can avoid it.
- Lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits. Set a “bedtime” to help them get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Encourage productive homework time. Set aside a time each day for your teen to dedicate their time to homework. This will help them to learn how to time block, and learn that 100% effort for a shorter amount of time is more effective than 60% effort for a longer amount of time.
- Teach them it’s okay to have fun! After an incredibly stressful week of school or disappointing grade, teens should unwind. Plan a movie night at your house, and let them invite friends! They will be more likely to be recharged and ready to take on the world after spending time with their friends.
- Additionally, this is an excellent way to teach students healthy habits for unplugging. Instead of unwinding by going to a party and getting drunk, show them it is possible to have fun without paying for the consequences the next day.
Talk About Stress, Seriously
One of the best ways that you can support a high school student is to take time to talk about the effects of stress. While a normal part of life, stress is still something that should be managed.
With the intense hormones that many teens have to balance, stress can often feel much more significant and harder to manage than it would be an adult.
Studies show that teens generally learn how to cope with stress by using illicit substances or struggling to sleep. Both of these are, obviously, not what we want for our teens.
A great way to support a high school student is to open up the conversation about stress. Remind them that it’s natural to feel pressure and that it’s okay to have “off” days. Also, let them know about the resources they have to process their stress (exercise, talk therapy, or medication, depending on your family’s approach to stress management).
Tip 4: Use the Resources
There are so many resources available to support a high school student, and many of them go unused. Pay attention to what their school provides. This can include:
- College and career planning resources
- Access to online journals, library services
- Technology check-out for at-home learning
- Tutor time
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Work studies
- Credit recapture
- and more!
Schools are invested in helping students be successful, but often students don’t know what’s available to them! Many of these resources are also free of charge and just waiting to be used!
If your child is struggling, encourage them to seek out some of the resources the school already has. They can talk with teachers, library/media specialists, and counselors to pinpoint precisely what help is out there.
Tip 5: Encourage Learning at Home
To best support a high school student, you must also be prepared to help them at home. This is especially true for the transition to virtual learning.
Think about your ideal work environment. For me? I like a quiet space, a tidy area, sometimes music, and always a cup of coffee. If my entire family is playing Twister where I am working, I can’t focus, and what I produce is low-quality.
Teens cannot be expected to be their best if younger siblings are tackling them. Listening to parents fighting. Or being asked to make dinner at the same time.
Create space and time during the day for them to complete work. If they do not have a space in the home to go and work in the quiet, set time aside for the house to be quiet. This could mean that the younger siblings have to go to the park, read, or watch TV, so the teen can have some time to work.
If they have responsibilities (like making dinner, cleaning, or mowing the lawn), give them time to accomplish that too. Don’t expect them to prioritize homework if they are being asked to do multiple things around the home as well.
Set a place aside in the house for dedicated work. This can be a desk (except those are a hot-ticket item this fall). It can also be the kitchen table (not during meal times), or even their room.
Outline expectations for working at-home. If your teen likes to learn TikTok dances more than work on homework, let them know that their work has to be done first.
Revoke privileges if they can’t finish and submit their work.
Establish how you expect them to use their time.
Always remember that expecting a teen to dedicate 8-hours of work to school is unrealistic. Plan for shorter (1-hour blocks) for them to work, with 10-15 minute breaks in between.
Tip 6: Set Them Up for Success
You would go into a football game without pads, and you shouldn’t send your teen to school without the resources they need.
There are many things that you can do to help set a student up for success, but the best place to start is to help them understand organization.
Pick them up a school planner and teach them how to use it. Show them how to organize a binder and locker. Find the information on how to take notes effectively.
If they are struggling, consider picking up a workbook from ArgoPrep, so they can begin to comprehend the information more clearly.
Tip 7: Be Invested
There are many different ways to support a high school student, but at the core of everything, it’s vital to remember that kids notice when you’re invested in their lives.
Ask about their day. Listen to what’s bothering them. Offer advice (when asked, we all know teens who would guffaw at advice from an adult). Ask about their friends. Let them know that you care about their life.
When they need something, try to provide it. This includes a listening ear and an advocate. If your child is dealing with a bully, problem teacher, or something else, advocate for them! And teach them the skills to advocate from themselves.
If you are encouraging your child to excel in school so they can get high grades, perform well on tests, and get into a good school, then show them you’re invested in their lives.
Now is the Time to Support a High School Student
I don’t know about you, but there are not many days that I wish I were back in high school. Of course, I would love to have the gift of a few days without bills, afternoons filled with reading, and my parents paying for my gas, but high school is tough!
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As a high school teacher, I have had the benefit of working with so many students and parents, and I have been able to see how the support of a high school student can change the game for a teen.
If you are looking for a way to support your child more effectively or simply wanting to try and understand your complex teen a little more clearly, you have come to the right place!
Using these seven tips to support a high school student will set you up for success as an adult.
What is your best tip? Let us know in the comments below.