The transition from middle school to high school can trigger a slew of emotions. Teens know their world is about to get reorganized; academic demands will increase and friendships will change. Many agonize over meeting new academic standards and ensuring they stay on a solid path to college. Others worry about fitting in and handling new social situations. Almost all are concerned about how they will adjust.
High school is a critical stage of development. Teens are learning habits, mindsets, and life skills which heavily influence their high school experience and their future. Although this is also a stage when parent-teen tension can reach its height, parents have an important role during this time of life- they need to guide and coach their teen toward healthy independence.
I’ve spent the last ten years coaching high school students and learning what kind of support they need from their parents. They’ve confided their thoughts and feelings, opened up about their unique fears and challenges, and shared their personal hopes and dreams. This insight has helped me understand what parents can do to maintain a strong relationship with their high school teen, and promote the life skills, mindsets, and awareness that will help their high schooler feel confident and prepared for their future.
In this two-part series, I will be sharing parenting actions that really work with teens and make a difference to their overall development. These practices will open the lines of communication, so your teen readily comes to you to ask questions, share experiences, and receive your loving support. You will learn how to help your teen develop skills, including effective communication, social intelligence, emotional regulation, motivation, and responsibility. All of these will support her personal, social, and academic success and move her toward, or beyond, her potential.
Part 1: Promoting Personal Success
The high school years are a time of intense change. Your teen is gaining a stronger sense of self and every experience shapes who she is and who she will become. The following parenting actions are your guide to helping your teen develop a healthy sense of self and life skills like empathy, autonomy, and open communication.
PARENTING ACTIONS FOR PROMOTING PERSONAL SUCCESS
Provide support. Rebellion is a normal part of adolescent development and creates incredible tension between you and your teen. When this tension exists, it can feel near to impossible to get through and teach important life lessons. During this time, call on an outside support. A life coach can help your teen cultivate confidence, resilience, self-advocacy, and problem-solving skills, so she can handle ups and downs with an even-temper and healthy perspective. Life coaching can also help deepen her empathy and learn how to more effectively communicate with you.
Encourage autonomy and responsibility. As is age-appropriate, allow your teen to do things on her own and accept the natural consequences of her choices. Help her understand what she can control and when others are responsible. As she feels more responsible and independent, she will become self-reliant and more capable of solving problems on her own.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to her. Respect is the foundation for healthy relationships, effective communication, self-care, and safety. Talk with your teen about what respect means to her. Ask her how she feels respected and how she shows respect to herself and others. Make “respect” part of your family’s dialogue. Modeling components of respect like listening, seeking to understand, supporting, and accepting differences will show your teen how she can do the same. Demonstrating an interest in how your teen feels respected will also open the lines of communication. She will be more willing to share when she feels respected and senses your willingness to understand.
Watch your reactions. Your high school experience is not the same as your teen’s. When you act like it is, your teen is most likely to shut down. No matter how meaningful your intentions, relating her experiences to your own sends the message that you don’t understand or that it’s always about you. As much as you can, remove yourself (your opinion and your reactions) from her unique experiences. Allow your teen a judgment-free space to share and process her experiences and feelings. All you need to do is listen.
Next week you will learn how you can support your teen in experiencing social and academic success.