Academically, a lot of freshmen and sophomores mess up. Most of them don’t think about college or what they want to do after high school. Their efforts in the classroom can reflect an “I don’t care” attitude. It’s common for kids in 9th and 10th grades to perform below their academic ability because they lack effort and focus.
Here are five more principles parents can employ in helping their underclassman succeed during the underclassmen years. (for Part 1 of this series, click here)
- Don’t ignore failing grades. Failing grades, a disinterest in school or the future, depression, or having an “I don’t care” attitude can indicate underlying mental health or behavioral issues parents may not know about. Fourteen to sixteen year olds can silently struggle and often turn to harmful behaviors to numb their pain. Drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, cutting, sexual promiscuity or unhealthy relationships are ways kids self-medicate their pain. If these are factors for your teen, get them professional help.
- Get rid of entitlement. Do your kids think they deserve good grades without the effort? Entitlement is a reality for a lot of kids and parents. Many teens naturally think they’re entitled to good grades, being on sports teams and attending their favorite college. Some students expect to get good grades because of who they are, who their parents are, or just because. They often don’t work to their potential or blame teachers for their poor grades. If your child has been bit by the entitlement bug, help them be responsible for their choices, work ethic, and behavior.
- Get help or tutoring if needed. Because of the academic, social, emotional and behavioral struggles at this age, many kids are doing their best but need help understanding harder subjects or developing study skills that don’t come natural. If your teen needs help studying or understanding a hard subject, get them connected with a tutor or mentor who can help them. Tutors don’t always cost a lot of money – are their college students you know or upperclassmen that can help them for minimal cost?
- Prioritize their activities. While adults and highly-motivated kids can master multi-tasking and fast-paced commitment, a lot of teens can’t. If your kid’s extra-curricular activities are affecting their performance in the classroom, help them assess and prioritize their activities. We limit our teens to two sports a year so they can balance academics during the school year. If your teen is working outside of school, consider how that may be affecting their school work. And don’t forget social media and technology – is their phone their primary sport?
- Give them love and grace. Your underclassman may simply be surviving their school year. Their grades, their social life and their outlook on life might be mediocre at best. Love them anyway. Affirm them a lot and give them grace in their failures. More than good grades and a bid to college, kids need affirmation and unconditional love.
Even if your teen’s academic performance as an underclassman is far from scholarly, if you’re helping them grow as a person that will have a healthy, productive life as an adult, you’re pointing them in the right direction.
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