The right response from parents when reports arrive can increase students’ future academic success and emotional wellbeing.
Parents/guardians can have an enormous positive influence on teenagers when school reports arrive. It can be an opportunity to have a productive heart-to-heart with your teenager. What you say can boost your teenager’s confidence and willingness to do better or have the reverse effect and crush her self-esteem and willingness to engage with school.
Here are some strategies to try when the next school report arrives…
The pleasing report
While it is always important to congratulate teenagers on a pleasing report, it is wise to focus on the effort they have put in rather than the results themselves. “We are so proud of how hard you have worked” or “We can see how much creativity and how much research you have put into this” is always better than “You are so smart. We knew you could do it”. At some point, even high achievers will not perform as well as they and parents expect and this can be devastating for everyone if the major focus has always been the final score. Even when a report is very pleasing, parents can guide teenagers to decide on the goals they want to achieve moving forward.
- Would your teenager consider asking for some extension work in a particular subject or two?
- Is your teenager spending too much time studying and neglecting extracurricular activities which can increase interpersonal skills, time management, self-confidence and a host of other benefits?
The not-so-pleasing report
Here are some approaches and tips to move on positively…
- Never attack or blame your teenager. Rather than “We are so disappointed…we knew this would happen…” try “How do you feel about the report?… is there anything I can do to help?”
- It is important to encourage your teenager. “Let’s see what we can do …have you spoken to the teachers and asked them to explain the areas that are not clear? Is there anything in class or at home stopping you from doing better?” Sometimes teenagers will be open about not concentrating in class or needing to spend more time on revision.
- Does your teenager have too many out-of-school distractions or commitments? Working too many hours part-time or playing too much sport can result in school work being rushed and taking second place. Talk about balancing school work with other areas of life.
- Parents can always contact teachers to gain their perspective on what can be improved. You may be surprised to hear that your teenager rarely completes homework to a high standard or frequently wastes time talking in class. Reaching out to a teacher can often clarify what needs to change. Once again, rather than blaming, simply relay the information to your teenager while making it clear that you know she can measure up. “Your teachers feel that you have a lot more ability and want to see you working more seriously in class. They have also noticed that you need to spend more time on homework. We all know you can do this. Is there anything we can do to help?”
- Suggest that your teenager does not have any social media distractions while completing homework and try to organise a quiet place for the homework to be completed. Drop in occasionally to see how homework is progressing and offer some quick encouragement before leaving. While it is important that teenagers complete the work themselves, parents can help a lot by discussing a topic at the start or offering to read over completed pieces of work. This shows interest, helps teenagers keep on track and can be a great way to maintain a positive relationship.
- Sometimes your teenager may be working as hard as possible in a particular subject but still struggling to obtain anything better than very average results. If this is the case, congratulate your teenager for putting in a great effort and focus on studies that can be improved.
- If there are any real concerns or results do not start improving, always make contact with teachers. Working collaboratively to support teenagers is always better than worrying in isolation.