During middle school and Mary's first semester of high school, Mary's parents had strict rules about homework time, and they monitored Mary's daily and long-term assignments. At the end of Mary's freshman year, and in her sophomore and junior years, they took a less active coaching approach.
- The family met weekly to help Mary set goals and keep up with her schoolwork. They asked her lots of questions, so she could practice making her own study plan. She knew when and how she would handle nightly assignments and what steps she should take each week to complete long-term assignments.
- They gave her suggestions, but they let Mary make her own homework and study schedule.
- They asked Mary what kind of support she needed from them.
- They allowed her to take the consequences of her decisions, like lower grades. Instead of jumping in to prevent problems, they helped her reflect on the things that had led to lower grades and what she could do to avoid them next time.
- They told Mary that, by her senior year, they wanted to be out of the picture. Mary would be totally responsible for her schoolwork and grades.
Acquire Living Skills
Mary's parents also taught her living skills. Throughout high school, they coached her to wake up, set her bedtime, order and take her medication, and do her laundry. She took on all of these tasks, and, by her senior year, she could practice these skills. They even let her experience the negative consequences of losing sleep, when she got a smartphone and stayed up very late on social media sites and texting her friends.
They made the point that, if she were at college, they wouldn't have been able to help her. They asked her to think about the consequences of not getting enough sleep — her GPA was critical to acceptance to the college of her dreams. When it came to setting limits on her technology use, they brainstormed together. Mary learned self-control at home.
Teach Your Teen to Advocate for Herself
Mary's parents also knew it was important for their daughter to advocate for herself in school. Beginning in upper-elementary and middle school, they took Mary along to school meetings with teachers and doctors. As she got older, she participated more. When crises cropped up, they helped her think about what she wanted to say and accompanied her to the meeting to say it. She learned to deal with conflict. By her senior year, she was handling most of her school and doctor conferences and conversations on her own.
You Are Part of the Solution
Like Mary's parents, you can use the high school years to help your teen practice being independent. To take this step, you'll have to see things as Mary's parents did.
- They allowed her to manage her own challenges and struggles. Unlike Catherine's parents, they stopped playing Warrior, Director, and Repairman.
- They collaborated with her, but let her handle things for herself. This forced Mary to use her executive functioning skills before she went to college. They identified the areas in Mary's life in which they were overinvolved. Their goal was to transfer more responsibility to her.
- They got help. They enlisted the school guidance counselor, who helped them find books, videos, and people to talk with. Local parent groups can suggest counselors and coaches who specialize in college readiness. If teens and parents aren't getting along, hiring a coach, counselor, or therapist is probably necessary.
When your teen faces challenges and you are tempted to jump in, think long-term. Parents should be the authority on certain things, but ask yourself whether this is one of those important things or whether you should allow your teen to get through the challenge on her own. When you feel like getting re-involved, don't. Remember that you are setting the stage for her to succeed in college and beyond.