Yes, the summer is over, and it is back to backpacks and schedules, carpools and homework. For some parents this day could not come fast enough, and for others it is dreaded almost as much as their kids dread it. The good and bad news is that in a few weeks, it will feel like summer never happened. Tans will fade, girls will finally have to put on some pants that cover their tushies, and everybody will be in some kind of routine.
I thought today I would give you my own version of a back to school sale, as I try to "sell" you on some strategies that you can start with from the get-go in hopes of a smooth beginning to the school year.
Do not allow your teen to take their cellphone to bed. How I wish teen drama happened between 8-10 pm, but the reality is, the real juicy stuff happens after 1 AM. Your teen has their phone on vibrate, and he/she never really hits the deep level of sleep that allows the brain to absorb the day's learning. Instead they lie in wait for their crush to text, or a best friend to text the days wrap up. This is why they are exhausted when they wake up. If you have been a good doobee parent who has not given your teen a smartphone, simply have your carrier shut it off when you and your teen agree on a time. Your conversation: "hey honey, I get how important it is to check in with your friends before bed, and I want you to have that time, but then we need to agree on a time that the phone will be shut off for the night. It is important for you to get a good night sleep. If you have already given your teen a smart phone, which you can't shut off through the carrier, you will say the same first part and then: " I will need to collect your phone at our agreed upon time. If you argue with me, and we get into a struggle about handing over your phone, I will need to switch out your smartphone for a regular phone, so that I can have it shut off and we won't need to argue. Your choice." And by the way, this goes for laptops, Itouches or any other device that can interfere with sleep. Shut your modem off if you have too. It is that important. Teens are already sleep deprived with the brain saying, "I'm not tired yet", and the school bus pick-up at a very early ungodly time. Your teen DOES NOT have the willpower to do this on their own, no matter what they tell you. Do not set them up to fail.
If you have had a teen that has fallen into the homework hole, do not wait for it to happen. Anticipate that this might happen again.Things don't change that much over the summer. If you have a younger teen, 6-10th grade, you might consider hiring what I call a homework coach. This is a cool college student with a car, who picks your teen up either after school or in the evening, takes them to a library, and sits with them while they do their homework, and then takes them out to shoot some hoops get an ice cream or a coffee when they are done. This basically gets your teen on a homework schedule, and pairs the dreaded homework with someone and something fun. Not that you aren't fun, well, actually you probably aren't when it comes to homework. Twice a week is usually enough.
Make sure you have a 2 hour period when there is no cellphone, and social networking sites are blocked. See cellphone strategy above. You can do the same thing, have it shut off for a couple of hours or agree for them to surrender. Again, and I will keep saying this, cellphones, and facebook, twitter et al, are TOO DISTRACTING. Your teen will argue till they are blue in the face that they can handle their homework while texting, facebooking, twittering etc. The research is unequivocal here, they can not. The brain will pay attention to the most interesting stimulus, and you can bet that geometry loses to texting every time. Even if your teen has no homework and says they did it at school you should follow through on the 2 hour rule. All this stuff is hugely addictive, you are not doing them any favors by feeding this addiction. Maybe they will actually spend time with you watching TV, a fate worse than death. Your teen will be mad at you. SO WHAT!
All teens should be involved in something. Too much time on their hands can be destructive. School is usually out by 2 and that leaves them with hours to whittle away doing who knows what, and who knows where. You should have an expectation that you teen either chooses a sport, club, drama or a job, but they must have something to do at least 3 days a week. No activity, no job...no money! Some teens may be overwhelmed with the choices available at school, and might be too shy to join something. If you know your teen has a strength in some area, say art for example, you might want to go undercover and let the guidance counselor know about this. Perhaps they need artists to work on the newspaper or yearbook or drama production, and they might get the faculty involved to approach your teen, saying they heard that they were talented and could really use their help. Be creative. This is all about building self esteem and self confidence especially if academics is not your teen's area of strength.
Teen proof your home.
- Lock up the alcohol and prescription drugs
- Make sure you supervise sleepovers (that means setting alarm clock to check on location and sobriety of your house guests.)
- Help your teen to think in advance about handling themselves in risky situations
- Supervise teens coming to your house to hang. Make sure your teen understands your no drinking or drug policy, and have a plan in place should your teen have friends who flaunt your rules. Remember it is unsafe and illegal.
FIND WAYS TO HAVE FUN AND BUILD RELATIONSHIP
This is in caps and in bold because it is the most important. Do not let your relationship just be about checking up on your teen, as in "have you? did you? when will you? If this is the bulk of your conversation with your teen you absolutely need to build in some good relationship building time. This is what will get your teens to do what you want, not taking away their phone. Go to a movie during the week, take them out for a coffee, give them a day off when they feel stressed, and stay in your pajamas all day eating junk food. Let your teen know you get life can be hard sometimes, and that you don't always have to be the hard-ass!