Contributed by: Austin Raines, LCMHCA

As parents, your role in shaping your child’s overall school experience goes far beyond just ensuring they turn in their homework in on time, study for tests, and receive good grades. Being a supportive parent is the most important role a parent will play over the course of the school year. So, what does it look like to be a supportive parent who are focused on a well-rounded school experience for their child? In this post, we’ll discuss practical advice to help guide you on your journey to becoming a parent who is focused on their child learning, developing, and becoming more independent.

To begin, it’s important to think about the times you find yourself experiencing the highest levels of anxiety during your child’s school year. Is it when they don’t meet preset expectations on a test? Or is it when they miss several homework assignments? Maybe it’s when your kid refuses to put the work in you think is necessary to achieve good grades? No matter what the situation is, the first step in working to become a more supportive parent is to recognize how your anxieties are bleeding into how you react to your child throughout the school year.

When these worries begin to creep in and take control, it’s important to start building awareness around what that reaction looks like. For many parents, they turn into rescuers who become hell-bent on trying to save their children from any perceived threat. As we continue this cycle, we are only reinforcing the belief that you don’t believe your child has the ability to help themself and that they have to rely on you for help. As your children continue to grow and develop at school, they also need to be challenged in areas they feel like they might need rescuing in. Accepting the idea that your child might fail is difficult, but it’s better for your kids to fail and learn on their own than to be carried to success.

Before I go any further, I want to stop and recognize how hard breaking this cycle can be. Parents rescue because they deeply care for their kids, and they know how scary of a place school can be at times. You are doing this out of love, but as you continue to repeat this cycle, it only is holding your kid back from tapping into their true potential.

School has many essential functions that are meant to help your child develop, one of the most important purposes is to help foster independence. During middle and high school, teens are meant to learn essential skills that fall under the umbrella of becoming more self-sufficient. As parents, you have a lot of control in helping foster that newfound independence and helping your kids be set up for success in college and beyond. It’s important to help your child build healthy habits that will help boost their self-confidence and  

Below I’ve laid out five areas to focus on during this upcoming school year that will assist your child in developing the habits needed to become not only a successful student, but an independent person.

  1. Time Management Skills
    • Time management is a valuable skill that can greatly impact a child’s academic performance and mental well-being. By creating a schedule, you can show your kids the importance of balancing study time with leisure activities to prevent burnout.
  2. Routine Building
    • A regular schedule helps children develop a sense of structure and stability. Ensuring they have a set morning and nighttime routine, as well as a consistent schedule for meals and homework will create a space where they can feel confident and secure.
  3. Promote Self-Advocacy
    • As your child grows, allow them to take more responsibility for their academic tasks and daily routines. Encourage them to make decisions, even if they occasionally are making mistakes. This independence will build their confidence and decision-making skills. With this increased independence your teen will be better suited to properly advocating for themselves by asking questions, seeking clarification, or requesting help from teachers or peers.
  4. Encourage Problem-Solving
    • Instead of providing immediate solutions to your teen’s problems, ask open-ended questions to help them think critically and solve their issues independently. Offering guidance and support is encouraged, as long as you’re creating a space for them to find their own solutions.
  5. Prioritize stress management
    • When your child is stressed, they will be unable to work or process effectively. Teach your child relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation. These practices can help them manage stress, stay focused, and maintain a healthy mental state.

Middle and high school is a rewarding, but difficult time of life. It can be natural as parents to try and do everything in your power to save your child from the dangers that exist in those halls. This is only holding your child back from reaching their true potential, while also subconsciously conveying the belief that your child is unable to do things on their own. In this time of life for teens, it’s ok to fail, it’s ok to fall down and get back up. As parents, seeing this process can be painful, but these are necessary life events that your child must experience and learn on their own. Helping foster this independence is a great way to show your support and belief in your children throughout the school year.