Back to School Priorities

Teenage classmates standing in high school hallway

Here in Arizona, school is back in session.  Summer vacation is over and the school supply aisles at Target and Walmart have been completely cleared out.

Some parents take a small breath of relief when their kids head back to school, and look forward to them being engaged and involved and productive after a couple of months of having a relaxed schedule and undirected time.  

But this relief is quickly replaced by anxiety about how successful they are going to be during the school year, the challenges they face every day, and the progress or lack of progress they seem to be making towards their long-term goals.  As parents, we start worrying about their grades, their futures, their friends, their activities, their happiness, and their anxieties and fears.

It’s not easy being a parent.  And it’s not easy being a teenager.

They feel pressure to succeed, and we feel pressure to help them succeed.  They feel pressure to be happy, and we feel pressure to make sure they are happy.  They feel pressure to know who they are and what they want and how to create a future, and we feel pressure to give them the skills to be able to do all that.

Today I want to offer you three ideas to help relieve some of this pressure and help both you and teenager have an incredible school year together.

Prioritize connection– Many times in a well-intentioned but unwise attempt to help our kids succeed and be happy and prepare for the future, we trade our connection with them for lectures and advice and instruction.  Especially if we are fueled by fear and worry, this parental concern can come across as critical and demeaning.  

Keep in mind that your top priority should always be connection with your child. Your kids are on the cusp of adulthood and they have their own ideas about how their lives should go.  Not only that, but they have their own personal worries and concerns.  Often the best thing we can do is listen without wanting them to be different or without offering our advice.  We need to list.  Just listen. They often know the right answer already.  They know what they should do and they simply need the opportunity to talk and process what they are experiencing in order to tap into their own wisdom.

No matter what happens in your child’s life this school year, remember that connection and intimacy will make it better.  When your teenager feels your love rather than your fear and worry, it will increase the bond between you and instill confidence in them.

Prioritize sleep and exercise– At first glance, prioritizing sleep and exercise might not seem that important.  But there have been impressive research studies performed in the last decade documenting the fact that most teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep at a time in their lives when their brains need sleep in order to grow and develop. For us and our teens, both sleep and exercise play a vital role in stress management and the regulation of hormones, as well as physical health—and, therefore, a huge role in our mental and emotional well-being by helping better regulate our emotional lives. 

Teenagers have lots of reasons they aren’t getting enough sleep.  From school start times, to homework loads, to work and sports schedules, and commitments to friends, sleep is one area that gets cut first. Talk to your child about where they can make changes to prioritize sleep and exercise.  Ask for their input and suggestions about rearranging or eliminating less important activities.  Empower them to make their own decisions about their schedule and give them support where they need it.  

Prioritize mental and emotional self-reliance– The other day I saw an Instagram post that said, “So many years of education and yet no one taught us to love ourselves and why it’s so important.”  I actually think this applies to all of our emotions.  

We spend years and years in school, learning how the world works, how math works, how science works, how politics works, and yet no one ever teaches us how our own mind and our emotions work.  We never learn how to take personal emotional responsibility for our feelings and we aren’t taught that we create our lives and all the outcomes in them with our thoughts.  

Think what a difference it would make in the lives of our young people if they knew how to recognize, process, and feel their emotions and how to manage their thoughts to create the beliefs that would allow them to solve their problems and achieve their goals.  Long after they have forgotten how to solve for the cosine of an angle, learning how to manage their own emotional and mental health will serve them throughout their lives. 

Our incredible online course, Own It! teaches these principles and gives teens opportunities to practice what they are learning.  These are critical lessons that they aren’t getting anywhere else.  Enroll your youth in our course and they will gain the emotional intelligence and mind management skills that can be applied to every area of their life, at any point in their lives.  Nothing they ever learn will have a greater long-term impact on their success and happiness than these important principles.  

I know I said I was going to offer you three ideas, but in closing, I just want to add one more:  Trust yourself and trust them.  You are doing a remarkable job and so are they.  You are both juggling so much every day in addition to preparing for the future.  Trust their ability to create the perfect life experience for themselves and trust yourself to do your best as a parent to love them and teach them and provide the right opportunities for their learning and growth.  

At Own It! we believe in both of you!  And we’re here to help both of you as you navigate that learning, growing process together.  Have an incredible school year!

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