10 School Problems Parents of Teens Face

Your teen is falling asleep in class.

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Quick Links: High School Survival Guide | Quiz: Is your teen a responsible athlete?

Teens have a busy morning schedule as they need to wake up and get moving very early in order to catch a bus and get to school by the required time. This means teens need to get their rest the night before or they will be too tired to learn anything at school and may even fall asleep in class.

When a teen falls asleep in class, two things happen: they miss what is being taught and they lose the respect of the teacher. They may also receive a consequence from the school, depending on the classroom discipline policy. All of these things affect your teen's academic success and can be avoided.

To prevent your teen from being sleepy in class, try these three tips:

  1. Set a time for ‘lights out’ on school nights. This is never be any later than 10 p.m. and preferably 9 p.m. ‘Lights out’ means the computer, television, lights and cell phone should be off. Soft music can be on and used to help lull your teen to sleep.
  2. Help your teen develop a nighttime routine that involves activities that slow them down for the end of the day. Taking a bath or reading are two activities that work well. Turning off the computer and disconnecting from friends and the commotion of the day an hour before bedtime will also help your teen relax.
  3. Point out the positives after your teen has had a good night’s rest. This will reinforce what it feels like to be rested and capable of accomplishing what they want.
More: Teens and Sleep.

Your teen is not getting along with a teacher.

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Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

We know, as adults, that not everyone is capable of getting along with everyone else. Different personalities clash, expectations are not always clear and so forth. Talk with your teen and come up with a list of things they could do to either improve his relationship with his teacher or keep it from getting any worse. Remind them that the goal is a good grade, not who is liked best by the teacher. Your teen should use respect when dealing with a teacher, always, but not take their attitude toward your teen to heart.

More tips for dealing with difficult teachers.

Your teen is having trouble doing the work or homework.

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Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

Homework in high school isn’t what it was when your child was in grade school. It could very well be something you have never studied and don’t know enough about to help your teen, or it could be a long drawn out project that takes your teen an entire semester to complete. Either way, there will be times that parents can’t really help their teen in the ‘traditional’ sense of sitting with them and going over the answers. You and your teen will need a few different skills up your sleeve, try these:

  • Know where to find usable resources. As soon as your teen knows their schedule, look up websites that can help in a crunch. Local college libraries are perfect resources for high school Advanced Placement students and normally offer cards for local residents.
  • Write down the times the teacher is available for extra help and encourage your teen get it when it is needed.
  • Work on your teens organizational skills. This book can help: Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers.
  • Encourage your teen by being there for them. You do not need to know what their vocabulary means to be able to look at the answer sheet and quiz your teen. This one-on-one time means a lot.
  • Hire a tutor. there is no shame in getting some professional help, especially if it works.

    What If Nothing Works?

    If you find that nothing is helping your teen with his school work, and it isn’t a discipline problem, please go to the guidance office and seek additional help. These people are trained to find problems parents may not be able to see.

    More: Homework Help for Parents of Teens.

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    Your teen is never prepared and needs you to get things at the last minute.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    Your teen needs something for school tomorrow and they tells you about it at 9 p.m. Although this may happen a little more often than you like, your teenager is not any less human than you are. Humans forget things, especially when they are under pressures like those at school.

    If your teen hasn’t made this a habit, then do your best to get what they need before their class without a big fuss. But do make it clear to your teen that they need to give more notice the next time, then set a consequence for the next time. This will help your teen know what your expectations are.

    If your teen has made this a habit, discuss ways to prevent it from happening again, follow through with the preset consequence, then do your best to get what they need before their class. Auto-rewind, repeat. Sometimes it really does take a teen three or four times to have things sink in.

    To prevent you from having to run to the store for your teen's emergency school items, you can have a small store of items ready for your teen’s use. The supplies most needed by a teen in high school or middle school are:

    • #2 pencils
    • folders
    • 1-inch binders
    • blue and red pens
    • report covers(plastic)
    • graph paper
    • poster board
    • colored pencils
    • book covers
    • highlighters
    • college rule notepaper.

    Your teen is not involved in extracurricular activities and sports.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    Getting involved in extracurricular activities helps a teens in these ways:

    • Helps your teen define who they are through positive interests and experiences.
    • Introduces teens to like-minded peers, building self-confidence.
    • Teens learn to handle responsibilities, use teamwork and other positive traits.
    • Keeps teens busy and drives away boredom.
    High school offers many different activities and there are also activities in the community that high school students can get involved in. To get more information talk to your teen about their interests, call around to other parents for suggestions and/or call the school’s guidance office.

    More Getting your Teen Involved Resources: How to Promote a Positive Volunteer Experience Local Volunteer Opportunities for Teens 4 Reasons Your Teen Needs a Hobby Be Your Teen’s Biggest Fan Ten Tactics Parents Use to Stay Involved

    Your teen is too involved and over scheduled.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    Sometimes to teens, it is too easy to say ‘yes’ and/or too hard to say ‘no’ when it comes to doing fun things. Then they will find themselves way overbooked with homework, part-time job and a social life - they get in over their heads! If this sounds like your teen, there is a simple fix – delete things from their sechedule. Here are the four steps:

    1. Sit down with your teen and take a realistic look at their schedule.
    2. Have them prioritize the activities.
    3. Fit in what can be done and drop what can’t.
    4. Role-play with your teen and teach them how to drop an activity respectfully.

    Others may be putting a bit of pressure on your teen to continue an activity that they would prefer to drop. If this is the case, come up with a plan with your teen on how to handle the other person. It may or may not take your intervention. Let your teen make that choice.

    Your teen lacks direction, not isn’t thinking about their future – at all.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    While your teen is developing into a young adult, it is very normal for them to not know exactly what they want to do with their life. Your teen may not even know when they graduate high school - and that's okay! It is not normal, however, for a teen not to have any direction at all. Your teen should have hopes, dreams or thoughts about their future.

    Generally, teens get ideas about who or what they want to become and they start making plans in high school. Sometimes these plans are realistic, sometimes they are not. This is very normal behavior as it will start to point to a direction that a teen is going to take towards their future. When a teen starts looking toward their future, school and grades start to become more important. Teens who avoid thinking about what is ahead of them tend not to care about their school work, what classes they should take and what they should be learning.

    If you have a teen that lacks a view of the future, you can help them by seeding some dreams through cool experiences that involve your teen's interests. Ask people you know about their careers and tell your teen. For example, if your teen's aunt is a chemist and gets to blow things up for a living, your teenager will probably find it interesting. If your teen does show some interest, set up a conversation between the two - then hide all of the baking soda in the house!

    Here is a fun trick that I like and use on my kids: asking "I wonder" questions. For instance, when your family goes to an airport, and you see a cool jet, ask your teen: "I wonder what someone has to do to be allowed to fly that thing." Try one of these out on your teenager this week and see what they begin to wonder.

    If your teen would like an idea of what jobs and careers would interest them, they can take a career test at the Princeton Review. From there, they can look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook to see what different careers pay and what schooling is needed to be in that career. You can also send away for catalogs to different technical schools and colleges.

    Problems with their peer group that affects your teen’s performance at school.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    Problems with a peer group can mean many different things to a teen. It can be not having friends, having too many friends, being sucked into a friend’s problem, following friend’s actions blindly, getting mad at a friend and not expressing it appropriately, dealing with peers who are violent or into drugs, etc. The list can go on and on. These are your teen’s problems they will need to learn how to deal with them, obviously with your help if asked. But, when any of these type of peer problems affect your teen’s ability to do well in school, that is when it becomes a problem for you, the parent, as well.

    1. Talk with your teen, try to get the whole story. Sometimes teens who would never lie to you have a hard time giving parents the whole story when it involves a friend or peers who scare your teen.
    2. Realign your teen’s priorities by giving them your expectations for school behavior and grades. Sympathize with your teen’s problem and/or together you can come up with a plan to help, but remain firm with your expectations.
    3. Follow up with your teen. Praise him or her if she was able to accomplish what was expected and/or give encouragement to continue.

    Note: If the problem your teen is facing is too much for them to handle by them self, call the guidance office, principal and/or the authorities.

    More: Help Your Teen Handle Peer Pressure | Youth Violence

    Your teen has a hard time taking tests.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    Test-taking is never thought of as easy, but there are some people who really have a problem with it to a point where even if they know the information, they aren’t able to get a good grade on the test. You can help these types of teens by finding their specific cause and dealing with it.

    Start by getting your teen on board. Talk to them and begin trying new things to create new study habits. Remember, high school is much different than middle school or elementary school. The problem could be in the new way your teen is learning at school. Also, make sure you are not the problem.

    Assess your teen’s test-taking anxiety. Are there other 'stressors' in that classroom that can be dealt with? Tone them down as much as possible.

    If you’ve done what you can at home and nothing has worked, talk to the school. Meet with the teachers and get ideas. Talk with the guidance office, they can help.

    More: Help Your Teen Ace the Test | Ways to Help Your Teen Tone Down Test Stress

    Your teen spends too much time in detention/suspension/the principals office.

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    Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

    When your teen is given detention, suspension or is sent to the principal's office, you should read it as it is meant to be read: your teen has been given a consequence for their poor choices at school. What you’ll need to do is threefold:

    1. Talk to the school guidance counselor and get the straight scoop on what happened and why your teen has this consequence.
    2. Talk to your teen about the incident. Teach them to respect the authority the school has and expect that your teen will follow through with the consequence. Help your teen gain an understanding of what they’ve done wrong and how to prevent it from happening again by coming up with a plan to avoid the wrong-doing the next time.
    3. Give your teen a clean slate and assure them that you are there for them by dropping it and not nagging about the incident long after it is over. Once the consequence is paid, it’s time to start anew.

    If school discipline is an on-going problem for your teen, call into the guidance office and meet with someone who can help. Be as proactive as you can and listen to what others feel may be the problem.

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