5 Ways to Help Your Teen Thrive While Doing School from Home

Homeschooling is becoming more widespread due to COVID-19. It’s a good alternative for elementary and middle school students, if one parent can be home and take control of the homeschool curriculum.

But, what if your child is in high school or college, doesn’t want to be doing school from home, and is feeling stressed at the thought of another semester on-line? That’s a different challenge from homeschooling K-8 students.

Unfortunately, parents have lost control over how and where their high school teens and college students will be learning this fall. Both public and private schools have made difficult choices in the face of COVID-19, and many are opting for on-line or hybrid learning. Why? Because they can’t guarantee that their students and faculty will remain healthy at school.

What do parents still have control over? Anything happening inside their home. So it’s up to us, as parents, to help our high school teens and college students thrive despite the challenge of not being in a school environment.

Here are 5 strategies you can put in place to help your teen handle the stress of doing high school or college at home, and have a successful fall semester :

1) Let your teen set up their own “school” environment: If your teen creates their own place to study that is private and safe, that will become a haven for them. Having a clutter-free work space that is comfortable and quiet is critical. Encourage them to “decorate” the space and really make it their own, especially for college students who are missing their college campus.

2) Give your teen responsibility for their academic performance: Having control over their academic life will help your teen feel empowered. Don’t disturb them while they are in their “school” space. Make sure both high school and college students are using a planner to stay on top of all assignments and on-line classes. For college students, make it clear that they should function as if they were at college, and don’t have you to rely on.

3) Encourage your teen to have downtime where they can relax and rejuvenate: Stress can build up if your teen spends too much time on academics and not enough time on taking care of the emotional part of themselves. Downtime is needed to help manage stress, so encourage your teen to take breaks and enjoy themselves. Let your teen decide how to use their downtime: listening to music; taking a walk; playing with pets; reading a book for fun; gaming: meditation; and anything else that makes them feel good.

4) Make gratitude part of your family’s routine: Expressing gratitude increases happiness because it helps us focus on the positive aspects of our lives. Teens, like all of us, tend to think
about what’s not good in their lives, and given the current realities it’s so easy to point out the negative. Two possibilities for adding a family gratitude practice are: First, using a gratitude jar where each family member writes something they’re grateful for on a piece of paper each day and drops it in the jar, then they are read aloud at a meal or another time when everyone is together. Second, having each family member use a journal to write down 3 things they are grateful for that day, and make a specific time when everyone writes in their journal.

5) Agree on ways your teen can connect with friends beyond Zoom, social media and texting: Teens need to maintain social connections for their mental health, and not permitting any socializing outside the home will add to their stress. Most college students wanted to return to their college campus because they missed seeing their friends and being in an environment with other people their age. Consider small groups of friends in your backyard with masks or meeting a few friends at a restaurant that has outdoor dining.

Your role, as the parent of a teen, is to help them get through this next semester in the most positive way possible under the circumstances. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how disappointed and stressed they may be feeling. Give them as much autonomy as you can so they won’t feel like they’re being watched every minute. Make your interactions positive and supportive; they don’t need nagging, they need to feel in control and capable.