Summer is winding down and youth will soon be stepping into another school year of new experiences, personal and academic growth, new friends, new classes—and a whole new slew of challenges. Whether you interact with youth in a school setting, a community-based organization or as a clinician, chances are you can offer much-needed support for parents during this time of transition, too.
Fostering a trusting, two-way relationship with open lines of communication is one of the key factors for ensuring youth will have a successful school year. Why? If youth feel like they are seen and heard by a trusted adult, they will be more likely to come to them when common, yet challenging scenarios present themselves—like peer pressure, romantic relationships, gossip, academic pressure and stress. Strengthening the family unit is key for building protective factors in the home and community.
Here are a few tips from our Teen Speak® series you can offer parents to help them navigate the school year with confidence, poise and understanding:
- Show empathy. Things are a bit different for today’s teenagers. You may be a tad out of step with what it’s like to be constantly connected to your peers and have your life constantly broadcasted on social media. Admit that it’s never easy being a teenager.
- Talk with, not at your teen. When discussing the upcoming school year, talk with your teen, not at It makes a big difference! Instead of telling them what you want, include your child in a discussion about bedtime routines, morning routines, academic goals, and new social pressures. Many teens are stressed about the big transition. Moving up a grade means facing more academic demands, a new teacher, and a changing social circle. It can be helpful to sit down and talk with your teen about successes from last year and about your expectations for them during the upcoming school. Listening to your teen and having a two-way conversation supports independence and decision-making skills.
- Foster self-worth and self-esteem. It’s no secret that teens live up or down to our expectations. Teens whose strengths are recognized will be motivated to develop those strengths. Teens who are always told something is wrong with them will wilt, and are more likely to use substances, report depression and anxiety, and have sex at an early age. Empower your teen to take care of and value themselves.
- Ask open-ended questions. As easy it is to lecture, it doesn’t lead to a productive and honest two-way discussion. Open-ended questions allow teens to think through behaviors and possible alternatives to those behaviors. Put simply: open-ended questions are not easily answered with a yes or no response. If you’d like to have a conversation with your teen about time management, you could say, “How will you handle juggling your social life, school work and sports commitments?” instead of “Are you OK with all the commitments you have this year?”
- Remember that teen behaviors are normal. The biggest thing to remember when you are frustrated with how your child is behaving is that they have no control over the changes happening in their bodies. They are riding a roller-coaster of highs and lows. Think about what it is like to go through menopause and middle age (or what you’ve heard about it), multiply that by 100 and put yourself in an environment where all your friends and co-workers are going through the same thing. Sounds horrible, right? This is what teens are dealing with every day.
Returning to school is a big change after settling into a summer routine. As we head into the new school year, we’d like to offer additional help by providing a new parent resource. Building Strong Connections with Your Teen offers tips for parents to help strengthen relationships and navigate tough conversations. You can use this resource as a parent handout in your office or organization and distribute to parents at the start of school year. This handout also acts as an introduction to our popular Teen Speak® series, which provides communication strategies to help parents connect with their teens and create cohesive family units.