Teenage years don’t have to be full of conflict and disappointment. If you provide the right kind of support, in the right kind of home environment, your teens will thrive. Here’s what to do:
- Provide a warm and supportive home where you expect a bit of help if you’re struggling with work and housework, but don’t force them to do chores when they are already tired and on the edge of overwhelmed.
- Allow them to own their academic decisions. They should choose their own options for GCSE and A Level – by all means discuss the pros and cons but step back and lay off the pressure/emotional blackmail. They shouldn’t be living your dream for you, and we parents are a little behind in our ideas of useful subjects in the future. The world is turning and your teen’s choices might be more on the button than you realise. Encourage balance and that their choices really play to their personal strengths.
- Listen to them and try to raise your worries at the right time, so that they can be discussed with as little anxiety as possible. The car is great because eye contact can be avoided. Some children will talk and some children won’t, so don’t force it. It is wonderful if you do find out that one subject is a problem, or one particular teacher, because you can act and make a difference.
- Troubleshoot where possible, without embarrassing them or upsetting them. A poor teacher is unlikely to change, but if you can find out the exam board/topics already covered/syllabus details then you can buy the right support guides which really do make a difference when class notes are weak and patchy. You might even be in a position to look for a tutor. Sometimes just one or two informal sessions with an expert are enough to put your teen back on track (or to raise their game considerably) without too much time or money being an issue.
- Do pick your moments well. The right moment is so staggeringly better than the wrong one. Agree a manageable programme of work that is realistic. Allow your teen ownership over it and make sure they get the point of it all. Little and often is always the best way forward, so homework time/revision time should be arranged in short, tight sessions. What about an extra 10 minutes per evening on maths revision – just 2 or 3 questions for instance. And agree to drop the plan if homework is too much that night. Arrange to have another chat in a few days and adapt quickly if the whole thing isn’t working out. Stay positive and be honest about why it is falling down.
- Get any exam dates in the diary as soon as they are out. When doing this be absolutely clear of the examination board (AQA? Cambridge? Edexel etc) and be sure you have the exact revision guides from that particular board in the house.
- If your teen looks shattered, check bed times and that they aren’t playing online games long into the night when the rest of the house is asleep. Have a chat and do accept that favourite TV shows and online gaming are an important part of their life that shouldn’t be a problem to include in their routine. Then work the plan around those elements of relaxation and fun. Perhaps make sure they are ready for bed before they start screen-time, and work backwards so that the finish time works for both of you. But if they are simply shattered then consider letting them have a duvet day. This can’t become a habit, but when applied wisely it will give them such a boost. Perhaps they might lie in for a while and then look at homework with a fresh eye (that they couldn’t manage when they were exhausted after a long day the night before). No more than once every half term though.
- When their work is tough, send up little trays of thoughtful snacks and hot drinks. Keep them appropriate – chopped up apple and cheese, a dainty sandwich with the crusts cut off, a cup of tea or glass of fizzy water… as these are little demonstrations of love that show you are on their side.