How can parents set their child up for success in the new school year?

Advice and tips on raising older kids

Parenting teenagers: We all wonder if we’re doing it right. As teens and tweens experience their world and face glaringly different challenges than we did growing up, sometimes we’re unsure we have the tools to help them. We often seek out other parents who are also on the journey, or those who have the wisdom of experience in their rearview mirror.

ParentingNH is “hosting” a bi-monthly roundtable discussion to get diverse voices from around the Granite State to share their suggestions, opinions and advice on navigating the choppy waters of parenting older children.

The new school year is looming, the brief summer vacation erodes in August as we begin scrambling to plan, buy and organize everything that goes into going back to school.

With 20/20 hindsight, parents of teens and tweens realize how much easier it was to segue into the school year when their children were younger. We picked out the clothes, the supplies; we decided the schedules and the routines. Now that our kids are older and wanting more independence and decision-making authority, we’re faced with finding the balance of power and appropriate choices.

Larry W.  » Amherst, age 40
Married father of two girls, ages 11 and 9

Focus on effort, build on past success.
Our kids have drastically different feelings about returning to school each September. Our 11-year-old skips to the bus the first day with hopes to reconnect with friends she hasn’t seen since June. Our 9-year-old compares returning to school to nine months of hard labor without time off for good behavior.

They both tend to struggle academically and each has IEPs (Individualized Education Program, a written document developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education), so while we try to lower our expectations with relation to grading, they don’t get away without trying. We try to focus on effort and building upon previous success from the prior year; asking them if they’re looking forward to their favorite class again; asking what they’d like to do differently in classes they don’t like.

We also start the “school routine” (lunches packed the night before, laundry done, earlier bedtime) in mid-August. I imagine this has to be a bummer for them, but it makes the transition to a new school year a little bit smoother and less of a shock to the system.


Melissa R.  » Windham, age 44
Stay-at-home married mom of three: 14-year-old twin boys, 10-year-old girl

Prep and pre-prep.   As a mother of three, three-sport athletes, musicians and active students, I’d say the key to success in any new school year is not just preparation, but pre-preparation. This means planning for homework and projects to be done ahead of schedule, if possible, but also anticipating what might be coming down the pike.

Everyone knows things are going to get insane with schoolwork and concerts and practices, so the more that can be done up front, the better. In order for this to work, kids need to constantly communicate with their teachers about deadlines and go for extra help to get a boost whenever they can.

One absolute must in our home is packing everything the night before. The kids don’t go to bed until laptops are charging, homework is done and packed in their backpacks, and athletic bags are stocked for the next day’s practice. My children each have a locker in our basement which has a checklist on it for whatever sport they are playing, so they can make sure they have everything they need. They also set out their school clothes for the next day. This helps to eliminate a lot of the frantic “where-is-my-left-cleat-the-bus-will-be-here-any-minute” nonsense in the morning, although I won’t lie — it does still happen.


Michelle M.  » Nashua, age 55
Married, working mom of “five amazing young adults”

Instill confidence through responsibility. 
Prepping our kids for each phase of development and new school experience (from kindergarten to college) begins with careful prep by us, the parents. But it’s more than clothes or supplies or a pep talk. As teens and tweens, there’s more of a social component that needs to be navigated every day. It’s difficult, and it means we have to trust them with hard things. Because let’s face it, it’s hard to be a kid at any age, but especially this phase.

You can help set your children up for success by instilling confidence. Give them responsibilities and tasks a bit above what they think they can do. Building confidence means you let them overcome hard things. Even very young children can and should help around the home. If it’s kind of hard? Good! Responsibility creates a sense of accomplishment and therefore confidence, which will carry over to their school life. As long as any failures are met with encouragement from parents, not criticism. Did they try their best? That’s the goal.

With these little successes over a lifetime, this pattern will set the stage for a positive teacher-student relationship.


Kathleen P.  » Nashua, age 53
Single mom of a 13-year-old daughter

Organized and prioritize.  My daughter is 13 and will start high school in September.  She’s driven to achieve academically, for which I take no credit.  She absolutely loves getting ready for a new school year.

My plan for helping her will center around one important theme: being organized. I will encourage that by creating an organized plan for my own tasks. This will achieve the twofold function of offering an example to follow and a template to use, as well as helping me be as calm and stress-free as I can be. She will need me to be more of a patient “rock” for her in her high school years than I have been to date.

Now that she’s a teen and entering ninth grade, the focus is much stronger on buying, buying, buying. There will be debates about expensive purchases of clothing and possibly a new laptop. She was a fall baby, so she will likely be the youngest in her grade for her whole school career.  She will also be in the “youngest” class in the building, as a freshman. I’m expecting a robust concern around appearing older and keeping up with the upperclassmen. My second plan for helping her succeed will revolve around reminding her of what’s really important as a student and as a person, and to help her refocus her priorities instead of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Categories: Tween Us Parents

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