The New School Year Will Be Here Faster Than You Think:
During those hot days of mid-summer it can seem as if the school year is miles away. Certainly teens are not thinking about school supplies or new clothes just yet. However, parents whose teens struggled during the past school year still have time to use this critical window of opportunity to help their teen prepare for the next year.
For many teens whose previous school year did not go well, the approach of September can be a source of anxiety. Not all teens react this way, however. Some may be thrilled to have friends back who have been out of town for the summer. Some may be happy to be away from the house and your control. Your teen’s reaction to the new school year is influenced by a number of factors:
- How comfortable they are with academics
- How well they did in the previous semester
- How teachers treat them based on their past behavior
- How their parents approach school and grades
- Their friendships – do they fit into a particular social group?
- Importance of grades – do they care or not care about doing well in school?.
If your teen does work hard, but just can’t seem to tackle a certain subject, he could be struggling with a learning difference that has not been addressed. As parents, it’s important that we learn to recognize the difference between a child who just isn’t applying himself and a child who tries her best can but is continually frustrated by the material. If you suspect your teen may have a learning difference, this is not something to brush aside. The issue may not be your teen’s ability to learn. The issue may be how the material is being taught. Everyone has a different “learning style,” and students who don’t learn in the “traditional way” should not be left to struggle. Many bright and capable students can lose out in one-size-fits-all schools, so it is important that parents talk to teachers to find out exactly why a teen isn’t succeeding. Testing can reveal how your child can best learn a subject or if there is an underlying issue interfering with her ability to learn.
If your teen’s grades plummeted last year, you may have a more significant underlying issue to address. A sudden change in academic performance is one of the most striking signs of behavioral or emotional issues. Depression, alcohol or drug use, post-traumatic stress disorder and a number of other serious problems could be the cause of a downward spiral in grades.
If your teen’s academic performance has slowly declined over time, this can also be due to underlying learning issues or behavioral issues. The problem can be exacerbated when parents do not quickly act: as the student continues on this path, some teachers will simply come to expect much less of them. If your teen has been labeled a “poor student” it can be difficult for them to break out of that mold. Kids do tend to categorize themselves, and if they begin to believe they “just aren’t good at school,” it can be challenging to change their self-perception.
Parents can offer extra academic support through tutoring as well as therapeutic support if your child has emotional or behavioral problems. The message should be clear: you always have potential; you just need the right combination of tools and behaviors to meet that potential. It is critical that you NOT allow your teen to blithely accept the label “bad student.”
The Group Mentality
If your teen has moved into a social peer group that does not value school or academic performance, you will have even greater challenges. Your teen will need a strong enough sense of self to defy the group paradigm. Don’t underestimate the power of a group of friends who continually reinforce the idea that “school is stupid.”
If your teen is easily swayed by peer culture and the opinion of others, you may find yourself in an uphill battle: your voice versus the voices of negative friends. If this is the case, you may want to take advantage of this last window of opportunity before the school year begins to take your teen away from these influences.
Although many summer camps may be booked for the rest of the summer, there may be some last-minute cancellations that will allow your teen to be enrolled late in the season. Specialized academic camps may help your teen learn valuable study skills. If behavioral problems and defiance impact your teen’s ability to succeed in school, you might consider a wilderness program with academics. These programs offer year-round rolling admissions, so you can enroll your child usually within 24-48 hours upon completing an application for admission.
School Will Fix It
Expecting the new school year to magically transform a teen into a dedicated student can lead to profound disappointment. If your teen has learning, emotional, or behavioral issues that are at the heart of their academic struggles, simply asking them to buckle down and fly right will rarely result in significant change.
By addressing your child’s academic problems through active solutions, you give them the best chance of success in school now and in the future.
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