I struggle every morning to get my 17-year old son up for school. He messes around on his computer till way past midnight and is exhausted every morning. It is his junior year and his grades matter. He says he cares about doing well and getting into a good college but every morning he forgets promises he made the night before. What can I do?
The pull of the digital world keeps many teens from getting the eight to nine hours of sleep they need, with most getting six and a half hours of sleep--if that. And because adolescents tend to get a second wind anyway around 10:00 pm, it is hard for them to feel the sleepiness that will motivate them hit the off switch on their devices and go to sleep.
Some parents in your situation use the threat of removing privileges like use of the car to get their kids to hustle in the morning. But your son is moving into adulthood, and will soon have to overcome challenges without you. Here are some ideas for helping him take responsibility for waking up in the morning:
• Take him to visit a college. Some teens have a hard time connecting the dots between how they do in a particular class right now, and the someday enjoyment of attending the college of their choice. By physically spending time at a college or university campus in your town that appeals to him, you may better help him recognize the importance of overcoming his morning sluggishness.
• Look for a mentor. Young men need the mentorship of other men who will take them to task and hold them accountable for how they handle their responsibilities. Who does he admire or respect? Perhaps there is a coach, or an older cousin or uncle who can give him a pep talk to inspire him to take his academic life more seriously.
• Ask if he wants your help creating a plan for how he can resist the temptation to hit the snooze button. Maybe he'll decide to set two or three different alarms on the other side of the room so he has to get out of bed. Or he may decide to program his phone to play loud music--or something horribly annoying--so he feels compelled to throw off the covers.
• Don't expect cheeriness. Many teens don't fully wake up for a good hour or two in the morning. Regardless of how many hours they sleep, most teens love to linger in bed, unless there is something going on that they don't want to miss.
Be supportive but avoid creating power struggles with your son over something you cannot control. At seventeen, he will benefit most from the input of others--including his first period teacher, if he's consistently late to class. Show him that you're on his side, but avoid turning his problem into your problem.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.
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