Helping Today’s Tweens and Teens Get Through High School
Being a high schooler is likely very different in 2021 than it was for even the youngest parents of teens. It can be hard to help your child study for subjects they didn’t teach when you were at school, not to mention the constant pressure of social media. How do you help your tweens and teens navigate a different world to what you grew up in?
It can feel a bit like talking to a brick wall — or a closed bedroom door — but persist with trying to communicate openly with your children. Talk to them about what inspires them, what challenges them. Ask your teen to show you what websites and apps their peers are on and how they work.
Establish boundaries, expectations and respect their privacy; remember, hiding things from parents is a normal part of growing up. Try to create a non-judgmental environment where you can both ask questions.
The internet is a necessity for studying, keeping up to date with school and socialising with peers. The best we can do is teach and model safe browsing habits. According to 2020 research by the Australian Government’s eSafety Commissioner, three quarters of teens want “more online safety information delivered through trusted channels”. Read about current digital trends and challenges, like harmful sexual behaviours, and talk to your children about not posting personally identifiable information online, the dangers of sexting and avoiding cyberbullying.
Stay connected with their schooling
You can’t rely on your kids to tell you everything that’s going on, so try to stay engaged through their school’s website, online portal or Facebook page. You’ll find calendars, events, staff contact information and resources for parents, while your child should have access to test announcements, assignments, class notes and their marks through an online portal.
Teaching them to disconnect
It’s important to model appropriate screen time habits and help kids develop time management and impulse control skills. Ask them to keep their phone in another room while studying or install apps that limit access to social media during specific times. Try collecting everyone’s devices and turning them off before bed. Just be aware of when your child needs to use their devices for school. Homework might look different to what you’re used to, especially if they’re taking a coding or media class.
Taking care of mind and body
No matter how much school life changes, it’s always crucial to help kids take care of their minds and bodies. Support them with a healthy, balanced diet (including plenty of water and no coffee), plus exercise, downtime and enough sleep. High school is stressful and if your teen is showing symptoms like trouble sleeping or concentrating, irrational or negative thoughts, stomach aches or shortness of breath, they may have anxiety. For assistance, advice and resources, try the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, headspace.
Make sure your teen has everything they need and a distraction-free workspace at home. Talk to them about asking for homework help when they need it, by speaking to a teacher individually or seeking help from another student. Ask the school if they have a homework club or start your own with other parents.