10 ways to prepare your teenager for back to school

I have been teaching teenagers for 17 years now – and I have loved every minute. Seriously. Yes, there have been some challenges but there is always joy in the journey. I love those kids like they are my own – and real love is never easy.

In a perfect world, I would sit down with all of those kids and their parents in the middle of summer – before all the back to school crazy starts – and tell them some stuff that could prevent some heartache. Because this stuff is more important than school supplies (although I still looooooove school supplies), trendy clothes, and purple hair.

This is the life stuff that prepares kids for back to school better than any school planner or locker organizer. And life stuff will be around long after the cap is thrown into the air at graduation. Here’s some of the stuff I tell them all year long, but if you could tell them this stuff now, you can make a preemptive strike and we can work together to make high school the best four years ever.

  1. Give them a high five and explain that most of the time there aren’t more than five people in our lives whose opinions really (I mean really really) matter.  Sometimes it’s less than five. My five includes my husband, some relatives and a friend or two. But when I’m gossiped about or someone treats me badly, I consider whether that person is one of my five. Because if not, it doesn’t matter. I wrote more about that here in my article about the five people who should matter most to you right now.
  2. Help them see where their worth lies. I know you want them to do well in sports and grades. I’m a teacher – I get it. But if your kid doesn’t know you love them just as they are before all the accolades and the disappointments, then they’ll spend a whole lot of time trying to win your love through their performance. So, before all that stuff gets in full swing, remind them that they are loved just the way they are.
  3. Teach them how to glean. There ARE going to be boring classes (boring is against the rules in my classroom) and there ARE going to be classes they don’t like. But they have to learn how to glean. In other words, when I was a student, in some classes I gleaned exactly how I WASN’T going to teach. They have to figure out what they can learn even in situations that aren’t to their advantage or aren’t fair. That’s up to you to teach them how to do that.
  4. Stop the excuse train. I have so much more respect for kids who own up to their stuff. If they forgot to do their homework, just tell them to confess. I value honesty much more than excuses. They are going to get further with the real story rather than the one that sounds better. And parents, don’t make excuses for them. High School is where students learn how to do this stuff in real life – it’s practice for the future.
  5. Give them a five minute rule on the complaining thing. Capitalize on the positive. Help them see the glass half full. Complaining does nothing for them (limit the vent to five minutes) other than give them a negative outlook. The attitude you have toward something directly affects how you perform on it. And you are going to be the captain that helps steer that ship.
  6. Don’t push the boyfriend/girlfriend thing. This goes back to the worth point. I wrote a post that went viral called 10 reasons you don’t need a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school. Have them read it. Seriously. It has had over 300,000 views. It’s something kids face and you need to talk with them about it.
  7. They can’t choose what happens to them, but they can choose how they respond to it. They have a choice. Every day. It’s up to them. Help them see that even if something bad happens, they have full control over the outcome of that situation. They just have to choose.
  8. Albert Einstein once said, “Every one is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” Help your kids find their genius. It may not be typical. It might take some investigation. But I believe firmly that every kid has a genius. Recently, I found that one of my students is a genius with motors. Another one is a genius at hockey. Another is a genius with birds. There are a lot of “non-school” things that kids are genius at – and if you find that thing, it encourages them in every other area because they don’t feel worthless. You have to embrace that your kid might not be a cookie cutter student. And that’s okay.
  9. Help them realize everyone fails sometimes. We know the stories – of Michael Jordan getting cut from the basketball team and Einstein failing 7th grade. One failure is not the end of the world. I have some kids who think a “B” is the end of the world. Help them find balance. It all goes back to the worth thing. It connects to the genius thing. And it ALL can be a choice of how to respond, wipe the dust off, and keep going.
  10. HAVE FUN. I see far too many students (and frankly, parents) who take everything way too seriously. I know it’s high school, but they are still kids. I have students who go to school, practice their sport, then do four hours of homework. Parents – are your kids still getting the chance to be kids? Because you’re teaching them how to balance and live and breathe this adventure called life. No one knows when their last day will be. Make sure they take time to just be kids. It’s important.

All year long I preach these life lessons to my students. And I know many parents who are already doing this stuff. But in the grand scheme of things, four years is a very small percentage of a life well lived. I know, I know. High School determines a lot of how life will play out in the end game. But I know for a fact that the things I wrote above will only help kids become more confident, self-assured, and ready to “adult” after high school.

You only get them once. Help them see their true value in who they are and not what they do. Give them tools that will build them up, not tear them down. Laugh a little. Listen a lot.

Just breathe. It will all be okay.

A great way to count your blessings and keep positive is to join our #100daysofJOY movement on social media. Click here to learn more!

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