The Second Most Talked About Topic in My Practice
The topics of homework and academics are SO common in my coaching practice. Teens come into my office saying “I’m so tired of talking to my parents about grades and homework.” In the next breath, they say, “But I also need them to be supportive and helpful.” Meanwhile, parents reach out and ask, “How can we experience fewer nights of overwhelm and freak out over homework?!” And “How much should I be helping them?!”
Clearly, everyone would like to experience less stress around the topics of homework and academics. Both teens and parents want less conflict, less micromanagement, less worry. These strategies will support you in showing up for your teen with accountability, kindness, and support.
5 Ways to Survive Homework Time with Your Teen
- Focus more on the process, and WAY less on the grades. If teens constantly hear about “good grades” and “bad grades,” they associate their worth with the worth of the grades they are getting. Instead of focusing on grades– because believe me, they hear enough of this everywhere else in the culture– I invite you to give your attention and direct your teen’s attention to the process. You can ask them questions like, ‘What’s working? What’s not working? What seems to be helping? How do you focus best? What are the study strategies you rely on?” and so on. Then listen. And refrain from offering advice unless they ask for it. My guess is that if you go this route, you and your teenager will find a lot more to celebrate and affirm. (Give it a try, and let me know!)
- Create agreements about homework/academic TOGETHER. During a neutral time (as in, not during crunch time), perhaps over a walk or a meal or a drive, ask your teenager how they want and need support in their academic life? What do they want it to look like, sound like, and feel like? You can also share what you believe your role is as the parent– perhaps this includes being active in their academic process and offering accountability; give this some thought before you enter the conversation. Together, you can come up with plans for how your family will address academics as a team. Per # 1 above, avoid focusing on grades/pass-fail. (One family I support has agreed that the teenager will complete a weekly academic check-in on Sundays, and then present it to their parents. Otherwise, throughout the week, grades would not be mentioned. E-mail me for the weekly check-in form.)
- Before you try to help, check in with your own energy. If your teenager is already stressing out about how much work they have or the deadline they missed or the massive test they have tomorrow, it’s super important that you take care of your own nervous system before trying to help. Take a few nourishing breaths and notice how you are feeling. If you’re stressed, take a pause first– go drink some water or step outside or do a few stretches– until you feel calm and ready to receive your teen’s big energy. Then, do you best to focus on their agenda, rather than how you might things should go. Listen more than you talk, and follow their lead.
- Invite your teen to discharge their energy, too. Again, if the stress is already big, you might ask your teen what they are noticing in their body or ask if they are willing to take a brief break before they try to get to work. It might be helpful for them to discharge some of the energy before they try to get to work. This can be doing a handful of push-ups, blasting a song they love, taking a quick shower, punching a pillow, and so on. Your teen might not like this idea; if that’s the case let it be. You can offer it another time or talk about it out of context. And if they are open, they may need to try a few different releases before they figure out what works best for them. This isn’t a quick fix, and it won’t necessarily work immediately, but this skill of self-soothing and/or discharging is valuable and very generalizable.
- Allow your teen to hit some bumpy patches. Sometimes, your kid is going to forget about a test or skip and assignment or not go to tutoring. And they may end up with a grade that is not considered “passing.” That’s okay. Teenagers need space to take responsibility for themselves. Yes, they need your support and accountability (steps #2-4 above explore this), and they need to work through these situations in their own ways. You can offer support, again, in an out-of-homework-context-moment, by asking, “How can I help?” or ‘What do you think will help next time?” And then it’s time to listen. If you have an idea to share, ask, “Are you open to hearing a suggestion?” If they aren’t, save it for later. Advice-giving and nagging will likely lead to shut down or overwhelm.
Change Takes Time
As you try these strategies out, it is CRUCIAL that you give yourself and your teen grace. A whole lot of it. It may take time for you to get in the hang of utilizing these ideas, AND it might take your teen some time to adjust and adapt to the different energy you are fostering. If you’d like support in shifting the energy you are bringing into your parenting, let’s book a call; I’m here.