Is Your High-Schooler Over-Scheduled?

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Is your teen’s schedule overbooked?

The Self-Management Rookie

Since they were born you have been deciding your kids’ daily schedules and seasonal activities.  Everything from bedtime, to dinner time, to how they spent their summers.  As your child progresses through the teen years and especially high school, your high-schooler will increasingly decide what his or her daily schedule and seasonal activities will be.

Your daughter may decide to stay up past your recommended bedtime to finish the that project for her chemistry class.  Your son, may decide to skip family dinner and instead hit the drive-thru with his buds before heading to the school’s basketball game.  Your teen may be planning to go on the overseas trip with the French teacher next summer; or getting that summer job at the local grocery store without first passing the idea by you.  Whatever the case, learning self-management is like learning any other skill.  It takes practice.  Teens are new at the art and skill of self-management.  And just like learning any new skill, a rookie will make mistakes; lots of mistakes like misjudging timelines, over-booking themselves, and overshooting deadlines.

What’s a Parent To Do?

1. Listen – You’re son or daughter is coming of age.  They have their own ideas that they want to discuss and implement.  Even if you know that their idea is not going to work – listen anyway.  Give them a safe place to express thoughts, perspectives, ideas, questions, and problems.  Sometimes in the process of  them talking and you listening, they eventually come to a feasible solution; but even better; when you listen, your kid will see you more as an ally and not the nagging mom or finger-wagging dad who is constantly riding their back.

1. Offer Aid –  Offer guidance, and support.  To some, this may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to know how many parents avoid offering support because they know they will be met with resistance from their teen.  Many parents don’t want to endure one more battle.  Even if you think you will be met with resistance offer support anyway.  Remember, self-management is a difficult skill to master even for adults.  So, if you know your teen is overbooked, no matter how many times they tell you “I got it”, chances are that they don’t “have it”.  It’s typical for adolescents to resist support from parents; however, they need to be reminded that you are available for them; regardless of how many times they have rebuffed your offers of support in the past.

2. Enlist Help – If your teen resists your support, enlist a trusted adult to help her or him. Relatives, teachers, tutors, coaches, or your teen’s school counselor; any individual who has a stake in your son or daughter’s success.  When you enlist another adult:

a. Let your teen know ahead of time that you are going to ask Ms. Johnson for her input.

b. Let Ms. Johnson know what you’re thinking and how you would like her to help.

Typically, if a teen is resistant to help from parents, they are open to advice, guidance and support from some other adult they know and trust.

3. An Ounce of Prevention – Before the semester starts, before she signs up for another club, before she takes one too many AP classes, intervene.  In order to spot these kinds of decisions before they happen you have to remain in communication with your teen and their world.  Are you following your teen’s high school on Twitter or Facebook?  Do you get the parent email from the school?  Do your best to stay plugged in to what’s happening at your kid’s school so that you can generate conversation and discuss events and activities ahead of time.  These conversations will help you to spot and intervene when your teen is putting herself in a situation that will tax her time.  Again, intervene by listening, offering input, and guidance;  enlist help if necessary.

4.  Demonstrate – You are your teen’s most important teacher.  Parents teach by living life.  It may be that they are over-scheduled because you are.  You can’t really lecture your son about over-scheduling his calendar if all he see is mom and dad running from appointment to appointment, harried, and pressed for time.  If your teen is prone to over-booking themselves, be sure they see what it means to not be over-scheduled.  They need to see you at leisure and involved in leisurely activities regularly.

Self-Management Experts

When kids make mistakes by misjudging timelines, over-booking themselves, and overshooting deadlines, use these misjudgments as teaching opportunities sprinkled with a little grace as they navigate these new waters.  What you want is for your adolescent to become quite proficient in the art / skill of self-management by the time they hit senior year.  When they reach college, you would hope they will be self-management experts!  With not only their education at stake but also thousands of dollars in tuition, there’s little room for error while practicing the art and skill of self-management.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve had to privilege to help, support, advise, and guide parents and teens as they navigate through the high school years .  As a father of a college freshman and of a toddler, my perspective of parenting is interesting to say the least!  Countless times over the years I’ve met with one kid after another who is stressed out, overbooked, over scheduled and overworked.  Remember to take time and be certain that your high-schooler  has balance in his or her life.

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