At around the time your teen is old enough to get their first job (usually High School) they are undergoing many changes, physically, mentally & emotionally. Added into the mix of the challenges facing them is the “always” on technology that comes with the use of mobile phones, iPads and computers. To help prepare your teen for the stress of study/exams and jobs it is important to plan early.
Making a few changes and encouraging a respectful family environment will provide your teen with confidence, and at the same time, it teaches your other children the importance of respecting other people’s needs.
You can take several steps early on to help create a supportive family culture to assist your teen prepare for exams and to give them strong skills which will also favour their first forays into the casual job market.
1. Create a suitable study environment
Making sure your teen has a suitable space for study is important. This doesn’t necessarily mean isolation however. You can create a desk space in a location where you are easily able to offer assistance, but make sure that other family members know to respect the space and not to disturb your teen when studying.
2. Set up a study/work/play timetable
Work with your teen to develop a suitable timetable that allows study time (be guided by your child’s teacher as to recommended number of hours), computer/phone time/work and relaxation. Communicate these times to extended family and make sure your teen speaks with friends to ensure they respect the guidelines. This will create balance for your teen
Don’t be completely inflexible, but if study time is interrupted for a special event, make sure to negotiate to catch up the missed time.
Keep your teen accountable for their time, but try to give them control. Ensure that your teen understands the trust agreement and have clear consequences that are mutually agreed upon for breaches.
Encourage and schedule time off for hobbies and sports. This may be the ideal time to review extra curricular activities.
3. Plan early
Discuss plans for study/work timetables as early as possible in the relevant year. If you already have a homework plan in place, then use this as the basis for developing the new exam/work plan.
It is important that you allow your teen to have input and develop the timetable with you (or better still by themselves and then discuss it with them and refine it afterwards.)
4. No phones/social media during study time
Encourage your teen to turn off social media platforms and to put their phones away (preferably in a different room). If they do need to use a tablet device for study, turn off messaging so that your teen does not get distracted.
5. Social Media & Technology as a positive tool
Don’t ban all social media and phone time, but encourage your teen to create a balanced timetable and to include an online study support group.
This may require some monitoring, but it is highly beneficial to allow your teen to interact with peers so that they can help each other understand and learn.
One place where I do advocate that children never have their mobile phones and devices is in their bedrooms at night.
It is important to develop good sleeping habits and often its late night discussions that lead to cyberbullying and other undesirable exposure.
6. Create a vision board
A vision board can be private. It might be as simple as a list that your teen writes up with all their hopes and aspirations. They might even create a collage of all the things they love and hope to achieve.
Encourage them to review it regularly to help keep them on track.
7. Managing the digital footprint
This is a really important time to start discussing your teen’s digital footprint. When they are about to enter the workforce in any capacity, whether voluntary, casual or part time, it is important they understand that what they put online stays there forever, and may influence their ability to get a job, or future college/university choices. Set some positive goals, talk about their future desires together.
8. Prepare an early resume
Encourage your teen to write down the groups and activities they participate in, any awards they have received, volunteer work they have done including collecting for charity, participating in school activities, delivering papers etc. All of these things become the backbone for creating their first resume.
This can help reinforce the importance of managing their digital footprint so that good things can & will be found about them online. You can even create a LinkedIn profile for your teen (in Australia minimum age is 14).
LinkedIn profiles for teens are limited in regards to information provided, but they will give your teen access to learning about universities (via new university pages) and possible future career directions.
They can start to form valuable networks and understand the value in making their own online “brand” shine. With changes in our university systems, more and more universities will be headhunting the types of students they want to enroll and this can really give your child a head start.
9. Be positive
Don’t use negatives such as saying, “if you don’t study you will never get anywhere,” rather be encouraging. “Another step closer to your goals” or “I’m really proud of how hard you are working”, “”I’m so impressed with how you have been keeping up with your study”.
10. Plan a reward
Have a goal set at the beginning to reward them for managing their time. Reward them for their study effort rather than their exam results.