Not Just Business as Usual!

Moving from the slower-paced days of summer to the early alarm clock and looming deadlines of a new school year can make for a difficult transition. This can be particularly challenging for juniors and seniors, as most students who plan to attend college are well aware they need to do well in their classes and participate in some activities outside of class.

In my last newsletter, I suggested that you and your child set up a meeting to establish some goals for the school year. I hope you were able to do that.

Regardless, now that school has been in session for several weeks, it is time to revisit the goals and adjust them based on what is really happening. Many teachers and college staff have noticed that students have lost academic ground during the Covid years. They have also become less resilient. That’s understandable; with drastically fewer face-to-face interactions, they have not had as much practice using their coping skills.

If your child is working with a therapist, tutor, academic coach, or checks in with teachers / staff at school, that person(s) should be involved in developing their goals. This way, it is not just business as usual to get homework completed – there is a plan to work on the areas that need improvement, whether study skills, organization, time management, reading comprehension, or math/writing skills.

Your child may also have goals to be more independent in waking in the morning, making their own appointments, learning how to calm themselves when needed, or initiating more interaction with peers outside of school. These are all areas that will improve somewhat with maturity and time, but without direct intervention during the high school years, may not occur soon enough for success in college.

It is still early in the year and this is a perfect time for a meeting with your child and anyone working on their behalf to update goals based on where your student is at this point. College will be here before you know it and this is the time to build the skills needed to be successful!

Smoothing the Path from High School to College

It’s tempting to start the new school year and just “see how things go.”

You will find, however, that it is much more effective to sit down soon with your teen and discuss the areas you both know need addressing. This will help your student be more successful in school this fall and promote independence in social and life skills.

For high school parents (especially those with rising seniors), think about the areas you would be concerned about if you were dropping your student off at college in the next few weeks. From there, both you and your student can make a list of concerns as a starting point for discussion.

This can be a positive, goal-oriented exercise. It’s a way to prioritize the things you want to work on first. And your student will be more motivated if they are part of the planning process. Any of these skills can and should be worked on throughout high school!

Some areas that may need attention:

  • Time management. Getting to appointments on time; starting schoolwork in advance of due date.
  • Study skills. Keeping track of and handing in on time; avoiding distractions.
  • Independence in schoolwork. Your student may need to work with an academic coach/tutor for this (not a parent).
  • Advocating for self. Colleges do not communicate with parents! Your student needs to take this on for themselves.
  • Social skills. Ability to make friends; spending some time away from family.
  • Independent life skills. Waking oneself up; making appointments; ordering and managing meds; shopping for and cooking basic items; positive sleep/diet/exercise habits; personal hygiene.
  • Mental health. Stress coping skills; ability to know when help is needed.

You and your student may have additional areas that need addressing. But either way, now is the time to get out in front of potential issues by scheduling academic coaches/tutors (before school begins), assessing whether a therapist would be helpful, and evaluating where your student stands in preparation for college / living away from home.

Believe me. When college drop-off comes around for real, you and your student will be grateful that you planned ahead for a smooth transition!

It’s Not All About Outcomes

I highly recommend listening to this podcast/video by Dr Andrew Huberman. It is long, but worth it.

In it, he describes the importance of developing a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset.” He further emphasizes that what we believe about intelligence affects how well we learn. So, if we believe that intelligence can grow and isn’t fixed, we’re more likely to be successful learners.

You may have already heard of this concept – that with practice, we can all improve our performance in just about anything. But Dr. Huberman takes it further by focusing on the feedback we give ourselves or that we receive from others. Specifically, research has shown that praising effort is much more effective and motivating than praising outcomes.

He discusses how it’s important to reward effort and actions – not just apply labels of success. For example, praising someone for being smart or a great athlete can actually hurt their motivation and performance. That label gets too mixed in with a person’s identity and then may create an issue with self-esteem when things don’t go as well as expected in that area.

So praising the effort that one puts forward is recommended. That reinforces the belief that it is okay to fail, while encouraging a willingness to take risks and attempt things where success may not be guaranteed at first (or at all).

Finally, Dr Huberman discusses how to look at moderate stress in a more positive way and as a means of improving performance.

We each have the ability to apply this important new research for ourselves and our families and see some positive results in the process. I hope you enjoy the episode as much as I did!

Watch and listen here.