Helping Your High Schooler Succeed: 10 Tips for Parents

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CHARLOTTE – With nine years of elementary and middle school behind you, you may think you’ve got this school thing down, but high school brings new challenges for teens and parents alike.  Here are ten tips to help your high schooler succeed this year.

  1. Encourage your high schooler to get plenty of rest!  Teens need 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep a night, but packed schedules and early start times can make rest hard to come by.  Moreover, high school start times can differ wildly from middle school start times.  Mint Hill teens moving from Northeast Middle School to Independence High School, for example, will find themselves getting out the door a full two hours earlier!
  2. Help your child carve out time and space to complete homework.  This may mean helping them balance their schedule or finding a calm and quiet space to work in the house.  
  3. But don’t do it all for them.  High schoolers can and should begin to advocate for themselves.  Encourage them to reach out to their teachers if they have questions.  
  4. Encourage your child to explore his or her interests.  High schoolers often have more freedom in terms of course selection especially as they reach upper years.  Encourage them to use elective slots to explore potential career interests.
  5. Plan for the future.  Have honest discussions about your teen’s post-high school plans and what they need to do now to make them happen.  For teens with their sights set on college, grades and extracurriculars matter.  Remember, these are the things colleges will see four years down the line.
  6. But don’t neglect work/life balance.  With an eye toward college applications, it’s easy to pack your teen’s schedule full of demanding classes, varsity sports and extracurriculars, but it’s important to build in downtime and time for fun, too.  Help your teen create a calendar that includes school and non-school commitments, and model appropriate work/life balance yourself.
  7. Encourage reading for fun.  They don’t have to read the classics.  What your kids read isn’t nearly as important as that they read.  Kids who read for pleasure do better across the board in school.
  8. Keep the lines of communication open.  High schoolers are becoming more aware of who they are and their place in the world.  Continue to talk openly and honestly as they learn who they are and what they believe.  
  9. Don’t be afraid to give your high schooler a little more freedom.  Set reasonable limits, but allow your child to demonstrate that they’ve earned your trust.  Teenagers frustrated by rigid rules may be inclined to rebel.
  10. Stay connected to your kid’s school.  Attend events like Back to School Night and Parent/Teacher Conferences.  Visiting the school website frequently will help you stay on top of things.  Joining groups tailored to your teen’s class or school on social media can help you stay involved while letting your teen take the reins.
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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: