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Supporting Your Teen's Academic Success

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When children become teenagers they embark upon a journey of forming a separate identity. There is a lot going on during adolescence such as body changes, mastering peer relationships and defining educational expectations. As students across the country begin a new school year, it's an opportune time for teens to begin learning social skills, personal responsibility and accountability and respect for authority.

The teen years are also a period of transition for parents, who move away from providing for each and every childhood need to coaching their teen how to manage their own needs and deal with the frustrations and demands of daily life. As the parent of a teenager, your new role is to help your teen learn how to set realistic goals and expectations for themselves and let them take the lead while you encourage and support them from the sidelines.

Although good study habits are crucial to academic success, parents shouldn't get caught up in focusing solely on their teen's grades. Instead, support your teen in embracing the learning experience as well as developing a love of learning and the strength of character to persist beyond failures.

The following tips will help parents minimize their involvement and allow teens to take the lead in maximizing their own educational experience.

Learning Style
People learn differently. Some learn from listening to lectures or reading, while others learn best with visual aids or hands-on projects. If a teacher's style doesn't match your teen's learning style, students can supplement learning by using flash cards or sketching diagrams to aid in memorizing new material.

When taking notes, it may be useful for your teen to draw a sketch of something that helps the information stick in their mind. During class, students should listen for key words or phrases the teacher emphasizes, write them down, and highlight them so they are easily recognizable when reviewing their notes.

Planning
It is important for teens to understand their homework assignments and write them in their phone notebook, daily planner or notepad. Include specific details about what is expected and the assignment due date.

If your teen devotes enough time to do good work, they'll have greater means to succeed. Estimating how much time is needed to read a book, write a paper or prepare for an exam will help your teen establish an effective study schedule.

Organization
Organizing study notes helps students find information quickly when preparing for exams. This can be accomplished with highlighters, colored pens and post-its. Flagging information while reading makes it easy to return to. Highlight or write important topics, phrases or terms in a new color pen so they stand out.

Nobody benefits from completing an assignment, but forgetting to turn it in. At this stage, teachers have little patience for the excuse, "I left my homework at home." After homework is finished, teens should put homework in their binder or backpack, and set it next to the door so they can grab it and go the next morning.

Communication
If your teen can develop a good relationship with each teacher, they'll feel more comfortable asking questions and clarifying expectations, even if they don't personally like the teacher.

Study Space and Time
Some people prefer a quiet study environment while others benefit from listening to soft music. A comfortable study space should reflect the student's style, but it should also be free of distraction. I recommend that cell phones and social media be off limits during study time.

Teens can optimize learning by getting adequate rest, taking breaks, and being physically and emotionally healthy. Establishing bedtime limits and a nightly routine of reading or listening to relaxing music prior to bed helps teens get the sleep they need.

Test prep involves more than just studying. Teens need to be rested, alert, calm, confident and comfortable. Plan ahead to avoid distractions such as hunger pangs or feeling cold. It is also important to learn how to manage the time given for an exam and allot a certain number of minutes to each section of the exam.

Homework Habits
Instead of watching television or plugging in to the Internet upon arriving home from school, I recommend using them as a reward for after homework has been completed. Consider establishing healthy homework habits such as:

• Homework is done immediately after school.
• Take short breaks every 45 minutes or so to re-focus attention.
• If self-discipline is an issue, homework can be done in the kitchen or common areas instead of their room.
• All social media is off-limits until homework is finished.
• Cell phone is only accessible when homework is finished.

Checking In
As the new school year begins, check in with your teen by asking what they think of their teachers and how they are feeling about the subjects they are studying. Once school is underway check in daily or weekly by asking about their assignments and what they are learning. If, as time goes on, your teen expresses continuous feelings of helplessness or hopelessness this could mean a couple of things:

• They need assistance beyond the time spent in class to understand new information, and thus a tutor may prove helpful.
• They may have a learning disorder that needs to be better understood like ADD, dyslexia, or a sensory processing disorder. (There are tests as well as treatments designed to help address these challenges.)
• They could be struggling with depression, bullying, low self-esteem or even substance abuse.

Have a safe and happy school year!