By late summer, most parents and even tweens and teens are ready to get back to school. Parents are looking forward to some more routine. And kids are eager to check out their new classes and see friends a bit more. But several weeks in, everyone starts to feel the weight of the daily grind. Arguments about homework, chores, bedtime and social media time start popping up. Isn't there anyway to get the success of the first several weeks of school to last a little longer? You can! It just takes a little prep up front as you discuss expectations and write down goals with a parent- child school contract for tweens and teens.
Our kids have been in a variety of school settings: traditional school, private, and homeschool. And honestly, I know what it's like to just hold your breath and hope for the best. It can seem like even talking about school during the summer just anticipates problems and causes more arguments, right?
And sometimes you have that student that you aren't looking forward to hearing them argue with you, so you tend to avoid bringing up hot trigger items.
But the way through is better than avoiding those minor details...like SCHOOL expectations (tongue in cheek:)! So bolster yourself moms! This year we are going to bring up the challenging discussions and create a PLAN!
Let's walk through some tips that will help you more confidently talk with your kids about the school year, create a workable parent-child school contract and make the smooth routine of the first weeks last months longer!
Instead of springing out of nowhere with the topic, slowly warm your kid to the idea! Tell your teen that you would like to sit down with them sometime that week to discuss what they want to achieve during the school year.
You may get shocked looks, angry retorts, sarcasm or even a few worried looks! Just ignore, keep it brief and even flee the room if you have to;)! We are just giving them time to come around to the idea.
Print off your teen school contract and look it over for yourself.
Decide what you think is most important to you or the problem areas you want to hammer out the details. Make a decision as to if you want to try to cover the contract discussion in one sitting or a page at a time spread out over a few days. Will it work to give to the contract to your teen to fill in as much as they can, and later look over together?
Once YOU have decided, go back to your teen a day or so later and pick a time you all will chat.
Parent tip: Feel free to call contract whatever you think will be most helpful: Back to School Goal Sheet, Back to School Agreement or Back to School Expectations.
What is a good bed time for a teen? For your teen? Knowing that teens need at least 9 hours of sleep, what is a reasonable time for them to go to bed?
This should be an easy question, but more often than not parents struggle with this. I know I have. You want to give your teens some freedom and not make a bedtime like you did when they were 8 years old. But honestly, we need to make a hard stop rule about when lights need to be out and phones off.
So allow for wiggle room, but agree upon a HARD TIME when light have to be out.
Help them then work backward from bedtime to create a bedtime routine. When should they be off video games and social media, knowing that getting off an hour or 1/2 hour before will allow time for their brain to slow down?
Chat about what helps them relax and some things they may wish to include in a bedtime routine.
Realistically, how much time does your teen need in the morning to get ready?
If you don't already know, find out or decide on the time your kids needs to be ready to start their day. If they are doing online or homeschool when will their school day start? If they are going to a brick and mortar school, what time do they need to be in the car or at the bus stop?
Make sure to allow a little leeway as nothing goes always as planned.
Also have a discussion about one thing they ENJOY doing in the morning if they have a little extra time? When we create a morning routine that involves something we love, then getting up to start the day is more inviting. Does your teen like to scroll social media, text a friend, sit down to eat breakfast, read for a few minutes or have time to do their hair and make-up?
Make sure you and your kids are current on your school's sick and tardy policy. Each school district and school year may be a little different.
Avoid unwelcome surprises by discussing how many parent note sick days your kid has and how many tardies add up to a missed school day!
Parent Tip: One of my co-workers would cut out physical strips of paper to represent that amount of sick days her kids were allowed. When a kid used a sick day they had to turn in a strip of paper, so the teen clearly understood their was a limit to sick days!
Chat about what classes your student will have this year and if they foresee any problem areas. Do they have a class they wish to improve, and what is ONE thing they can do differently. What is the grade they wish to achieve?
Vague ideas like, " I want to do better in school this year," or, " I don't want to fail Chemistry," have no teeth to them and certainly no specific steps. It will fail!
Will your student be participating in extra-curricula activities? Do they have activities they wish to participate in or that would look good on their resume?
How much time is involved in these activities? As a parent, do you think this is a wise use of your kid's talents and time resources?
Also chat about when your student will keep up with their studies and homework due to their activities. Finally, does your student need to save or earn some money to help cover expenses from participating in this activity?
Not every tween or teen is a "sit and learn in the classroom student." And that is OK! Let's help our teens stay motivated about their education by creating after school goals that keep them excited about life and learning!
Dream with your teen about talents they have that they would like to improve? In the past, one of our teens volunteered at a local charity organization running sound, something he was later hired to do for a living.
Presently, our daughter decided to improve her sewing skills this summer, creating a product that she hopes to sell in the near future.
Many teens struggle with stress, anxiety and depression making getting to school and performing well difficult. Brainstorm with your teen about how they can combat stress.
What are the times and situations that cause them the most stress? What makes them feel better about life and recharged?
Jot down ways they can care for themselves and self-care habits they can be sure to participate in that will help them control their stress!
Finally let's talk about Netflix binging, playing video games and social media scrolling! While rewarding yourself with watching a TV show or scrolling on Instagram can be fun, it is also a HUGE time waster! And watching Netflix or Amazon til 2 am is one of the #1 reasons teens are truant or tardy for school!!
Set VERY SPECIFIC parameters on when and how long your teen can be on social media and the TV.
Is your teen allowed to be on the internet before homework? Do they need to have certain chores done before they jump on the game station? What platforms are they allowed to be on and how often?
If you haven't already discussed it, make sure that you have clear cell phone guidelines. Discuss cell phones rules and when they cell phone needs to be off or on silent for the evening.
While technology can be a bear, also remember it works in your favor.
We use the app Screentime on my daughter's phone so I can set limits, create bedtimes, reward when chores are done and see any new apps she downloads. In our home, we also have a wi-fi filter on our Netgear box so we can control at least some of the stuff that comes into our home and turn the internet OFF at a certain time for the whole household.
Moms, we can't prevent all internet over or unsafe usage, but we can the majority. Find a few apps or devices that will help you set parameters, create consistent rules and keep an eye on things for YOU!
Now, head on over and PRINT OFF your Back to School Contract! If you are already a part of The Reluctant Cowgirl family just go straight here to the Resource Library and type in the password (check your most recent email for a reminder:)
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