Back-to-school tips for parents: avoiding conflict and supporting your child

Three back-to-school tips for parents of teens and tweensThree back-to-school tips for parents of teens and tweens
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Three ways to avoid conflict and support your teen or tween this school year.


Avoid the temptation to offer the advice and words of wisdom that you think are relevant to your child; the lectures will likely fall on deaf ears. Instead, create opportunities to listen by asking open ended questions. Doing so will send the message to your child that you are interested and invested, and this will help encourage more sharing. It will also help you learn more about what your child is going through, and it might even lead to opportunities for you to offer some advice. But strive for at least 80% listening during conversations with your teen.

Here are a few questions to help start a dialogue:

  • What was the best part of your day?
  • Tell me something you learned about in __________ (choose a class) today.
  • What made you laugh today?
  • What was the hardest part of your day?
  • Tell me about one of your homework assignments for tonight.

Create structure.

Studying book and pen, studentsAs a parent, the best way for you to help your child with his or her homework is to provide the structure and routines they need to be productive. Set aside a designated homework space in the house that is free of distractions, and sit down and do some of your own work along with your child. Use a timer to schedule some breaks, and try making them active (and fun!) to improve focus. Resist the temptation to get involved in your child’s homework unless you are specifically asked for help.

Be a parent, not a teacher.

When you look at your child’s schoolwork, avoid giving critical feedback. When adolescents feel like a parent is criticizing their work, they will be less inclined to share assignments in the future. Even if you see glaring errors or significant issues with a piece of homework, let the teacher be the one to guide your child in the right direction. This will help you maintain open communication with your child, and it will ensure his or her teacher gets an accurate picture of your child’s abilities. Instead of offering suggestions for improvement, ask questions like, “What do you feel you did well in this assignment? What do you think you could improve? What was hard about it? What did you find interesting?” The goal is to encourage self-reflection so your child can make progress independently rather than relying on a parent for feedback.

Eliza Wagner Srestha of ES Tutoring & Consulting is a veteran educator with 16 years of teaching experience and a master’s degree in education. Eliza has taught middle and high school English and History and is especially skilled at working with students with mild to moderate learning disabilities.

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