Teens that are struggling academically don’t have the benefit of the experience that adults have to problem solving. That’s why many teens get frustrated and give up when they face challenges. As a parent, it’s up to you to provide help to your struggling teenager without swooping in and fixing it for them. When teens learn how to use critical thinking skills and develop a problem-solving approach for life, they will be better prepared to handle the challenges that they will eventually encounter as an adult.
Here are 5 things that parents can do to help their teens that are struggling in school using a no-rescue parenting approach:
1. Listen as they analyze their struggles.
Identifying the problem is the first step in discovering a solution. Ask your teen questions about the source of the struggle and then listen. Their frustration may not be based on what you automatically assumed in the first place. It’s also very helpful for teens to put their problems into words in order to help them process their feelings and narrow down the exact issues they are having a hard time with.
2. Make a list of problems and then brainstorm the solutions.
Work with your teen to create a list of the specific things they are having trouble with. Then, tackle each problem one by one and come up with a plan on how to address them. For example, if the teen states that they simply cannot get all their homework done each night, they may need help in getting organized, or they may be too busy with extracurricular activities. Seeing a problem and coming up with a solution is very empowering and helps put struggles into an actionable plan.
3. Get them organized.
Depending on what your teen is struggling with, getting organized may really help them to focus on the problems. For example, if they don’t understand the math assignments lately, they may want to take advantage of the free, after-school math tutoring workshops. They can organize their schedule to get to the tutoring on time. Another example might be that the teen is too tired to do homework well when they begin it at 10:00 p.m. Setting up a homework schedule that starts earlier in the day can make all the difference.
4. Work with the teachers.
It’s tempting for parents to rush to the school and deal directly with the teachers, but allowing teens to manage their own school challenges is empowering and reaches them about responsibility, communication and problem solving. Of course, parents should step in if things are spiraling out of control or the teen has other significant issues like mental health or behavioral problems. However, for basic struggles, teens can and should arrange for teacher meetings and conferences on their own.
5. Let them feel frustration and make a few mistakes.
Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them. If your teenager is working on solutions to their academic struggles and makes more mistakes, don’t jump to the rescue. Trial and error is important for problem solving, and when teens experience the opportunity to fail and try again, it can teach them lessons about life that go far beyond the classroom.