How Can I Best Prepare My Teen For School?

Teen standing at locker

School, already?

Amazing how quickly one school year ends, the summer comes and goes with all its activities, then we begin the preparation for school start-up. Tha’s the way the school calendar is set up here in Indiana right now.

Transition into the school-year is many times welcomed by parents, whether due to the benefit of routine, the need for a son/daughter to be given more purpose in his/her day, or just because you as a parent want your teen “out of your hair”.  Not focused on motive here, some are good and some are not.  My focus is on preparation of your son or daughter for the school year.

Here are a few simple principles to best prepare your teen for the school year.  Please feel free to reply with additional comments.

1.  Pray for your teen very specifically.  You and I need God’s help…not just to survive, but to thrive – for His glory.

2.  Have at least two good, non-pressure, intentional discussions with your teen prior to school starting and accomplish the following:

a.  Listen to where your son/daughter is in life.  Ask lots of questions.  Before you and I know how to best take someone where he/she should go, we must first know accurately where the person is. Like a GPS, if you want direction from where you are to where you want to go, you must accurately know both your destination and your location.  Discussion one is about finding out your son or daughter’s location.  You and I must listen more than talk.

b. Clearly outline goals, responsibilities and expectations.  Like being an employee, if your boss/company does not outline the goals, responsiblities, and expectations for you, aimlessness and minimal productivity occurs.  We should be providing our teen with direction based on God’s Word (the Bible).  That is our role.  Also, if we are not clear about what is expected, how can we then accurately keep our teen accountable.  Outline clearly your house rules, like when chores must be done, how they are to be done; What time is curfew; What the car can and can not be used for; expected attitude.

c. Discuss important topics like spiritual condition and growth, importance of academics and doing his/her best, relationships/purity, careful selection of close friends, the priority of family, your love for your son/duaghter, and work.  (More could be said here for sure.)

d.  Review the summer and find out what your teen enjoyed and learned.  Summer usually holds many light-bulb moments for teens, some due to seeing the result of hard work or good choices, others due to lessons learned in poor choices made.  Both are good if spiritual growth occurs.

These discussions should not be rushed or done out of mere duty, but with a spirit of love and sense of importance.  If possible, I would encourage you to go somewhere special and semi-public, like a coffee-shop, restaraunt (teen boys love the food, while most of the girls are about atmosphere – you know your teen best), or a park.  Tell your son or daughter in advance you want to get some time together a couple times before school begins, then set the day and time.

3.  Guide your teen in selecting his/her friends. This is where many parents struggle.  Our society says, let your teen make his or her own way – Their friends, their choice.  The book of Proverbs, and other places in the Bible, instructs us differently.    The very first topic that Solomon, the wisest man ever, aside from Jesus, brings up about developing wisdom is a son (or daughter) listening to his father’s instruction and his mother’s teaching.  Two important principles: 1)  You have to be instructing your teen – how to choose friends; and 2) It is your responsibility to make sure your teen listens and follows your instruction.  The rest of Proverbs outlines who to choose as close friends and who to not choose as close friends.

4.  Regulate TV, internet, texting, entertainment time. These are privileges, not rights.  If these privileges are not handled responsibly, they will be removed or minimized until responibility is established in smaller areas.  Establish clear guidelines on what, when, and how each of these things will and will not be used. Regularly ask specific questions to make sure your guidelines are followed.  Check cell phones, FB accounts, e-mail accounts.  Oh, and your teen probably has more than one or two different accounts for each.  Many times teens use a nickname or code username for their “secret” discussions they want to hide from mom and dad – just a little FYI (but I’m sure your teen would never do that).

5.  Provide options for your teen that enable you to say “yes” as much as possible. For example, before your teen asks to have a friend over to spend the night on a night that that you may not be comfortable with, then you pose a three options for your teen that you have selected and believe are all good for everyone involved.  So you may say “I think this Friday may be a good night for you to do something with a friend.  Here is what I am thinking….which one sounds good to you.  In your options, outline the “who” (two or three teens you approve of), the “what”, and the “when”.

6.  Clearly say “no” when necessary. I am amazed at how many teens are rarely told “no” regarding what he/she wants.  You can usually tell who they are.  How?  They get angry, argumenative, defensive, or try to ignore the conversation.   You may need to clearly say “no” to some things your teen wants to do as he/she prepares for school.

7.  Establish a time each week on your calendars for family time, and protect it. All family schedules are different.  It may take hard work to find that time.  It does not have to be anything fantsy, but consistant and meaningful.

8.  Clearly outline the daily before school and after school routine.  Much could be said here.  Bottom line, if this is not specifically outlilned, don’t expect it to go well.  If it is clearly outlined, expect it to be challenged initially.  Make adjustments as necessary.  Many variables here. Have a plan.  Communicate the plan.  Work the plan.

Have a great start to the school year!  Enjoy the process of preparation.

Andy Woodall
Andy Woodall served as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Faith from 1999-2012.