Back to School Topics with Teens

There is a lot to be considered with Back to School Expectations and I talk about this in my Back 2 School Survival Guide,  but with teens you have a few areas that may not be relevant for younger kids.  It is important to set boundaries beforehand so they know what is expected as they continue on with their high school studies and into college.  It is critical to address topics before the issues become a point of battle.  Clearly defining expectations and consequences gets everyone on the same page.  Parenting teens changes the playing field a bit and being prepared will help you a lot!


A specific curfew should be set on school nights and weekends.  This has been helpful for us to implement so that we are not caught off guard with certain situations that leave us feeling unprepared.  School night curfews are fairly easy, but this can become more difficult when your teen enters the job market.  If they are choosing to have  a job, then making sure you can set expectations for both curfew in regard to ‘fun’ activities as well as ‘job’ activities.

This past spring it was interesting to see how our son who had recently gotten his first job learned to balance his responsibilities at home, his studies and his commitment to his boss.  No amount of lecturing on my part really could help him.  I asked if he’d like my suggestions, but nagging him to do his school work and or to go to bed early on nights he wasn’t working were not in his best interest.  Allowing our kids to fail is hard, watching him get up tired and weary in the morning because of choices he had made with his time was hard, but that truly is the only way to learn.  Experience versus lecturing.


This can be a huge area of contention for students and parents.   I have a strategy that has worked well for us with our older children.  At a certain point in your child’s student career you have to be willing to hand over the reigns to them.  This can mean something different for different kids and families and you certainly will know your child best.  For us it worked well to slowly transition all areas of managing their own school work to them – which began at the end of elementary school.  Instead of having a certain “homework” time period set aside, they were given the opportunity to do it on their own time frame, as long as it got done.  When they blew it, they fell back under my rules and regulations.  After a while they were given the chance to try again.  It only took a short while, but they managed to do their work on their own and learned a valuable time management skill.  They also learned about making choices and how a wrong choice on their part could affect them.

I cannot express enough that it is a process and you slowly give the reigns over.  I am so happy to say that with our second high schooler, he has proven himself to be responsible, realizes the outcomes of his sometimes poor choices and he takes responsibility for them rather than blaming others.  In my opinion your child has to take complete ownership of their high school career, otherwise they will get to college and continue to look to you to manage their time and may have the perception that they can blame you when things don’t work out.

After-School Employment

With regard to an after-school job, I think it needs to be made clear that if school work begins to suffer due to the extra time taken to fulfill a job commitment, then they will have to give notice to their employer.  Keeping the priority on school first and foremost is where the focus needs to remain.  These years prior to college are critical for teens to learn time management skills, prioritizing what is important and what should take their time and also managing money.  Take it from a mom who has sent one off to college and seen some mistakes I’ve made in the process, you will want to do what you can to help foster these skills.

Report Cards

This is the defining moment.  If your teen brings home a report card that signifies he or she is not doing well, things start to get ugly.  Why not decide ahead of time some expectations before the school year begins.  This could be as general as an expectation for a ‘C’ in certain classes or other criteria.  You know your child best, so decide what area they are strong in and set those expectations and perhaps have different expectations for areas they struggle in.  Encouraging them to do their best – period.

When a report card comes home with less than desired outcomes, we’ve found it very helpful to sit down and have an adult conversation with them, no accusations, no condemnation, but rather a joint discussion on reasons why the grades are low and find ways they can be improved. In the course of the discussion, we’ve had two way communication that has resulted in our child coming up with problem solving techniques on their own, rather than us just telling them what they should do.  When you allow your child to have some control over a situation and the outcome you are giving them a powerful skill.

One thing I love to share with other parents who have teens, is to be clear on what your goals are when you send your kids off on their own after they graduate.  I want a self-sufficient adult who can problem solve, feel confident that they can come to me for help when their ideas run dry and know that I will be their biggest supporter, regardless of their progress.  Believe me, we’ve been challenged in this area this past year and it is hard.  We can take the time to build skills in their lives, but the results may be less than what we truly desire for them.  Remember, just because your child may make choices and performs different than what you feel they should doesn’t mean you should do anything less but love them.

We can love our kids BIG and still make choices to not help them continue to make the same mistakes.  If you have a teen or young adult child who is trying your patience and keeping you on your knees, know you are not alone!

What area with your teen causes the biggest conflict?



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