Ask Andrea! Back to School: How do I help to get the new school year off to a good start?

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In this edition of ‘Ask Andrea,’ our newest contributor, Andrea Glovsky, an educational consultant, answers the question ‘How do I help to get the new school year off to a good start?’ 

How do I help to get the new school year off to a good start?

Sneakers, new clothes, athletic equipment, school supplies all signal back to school. Tweens and Teens often worry about buying the right “stuff”. Some will avoid getting into pre-buying waiting to see what happens when they arrive at school. Wearing last year’s hot pink when purple is this year’s color can seem like a disaster. But as the summer winds down, anticipation of the new school year brings other concerns for teens. Most are eager to get back to their friends. Some even like getting back to a routine. But for all teens there is some apprehension. For those venturing into a new school or a new program the anticipation can be real anxiety provoking. Talking, organizing and planning will make a big difference. Here are some suggestions.

Talk: The best time to talk to an adolescent is when you are driving together in the car, getting ready for dinner or any activity that doesn’t require eye contact. Often children won’t discuss their own feelings; kids are happy to tell you how their friend feels about not playing football this fall, but not about the harder subjects they are all facing, or even the college process. In particular anyone entering junior year dreads the workload, having heard from those ahead of them how hard and important junior year is. Keep the lines of communication open. Make the time.

Observe: Just because you student is in middle or high school, it doesn’t mean it is time to sit back. First, think back over the years and try to determine what your child’s cycle of learning is. Some students start the year strong only to fade in January and February. Other students struggle at the outset until they adjust to the new teachers and expectations. Then there are always those that just run out of gas in April – they can’t accelerate any longer. If you can understand your child’s specific cycle you can be more watchful and perhaps head off a problem. Anticipate. Remind them that a poor grade does not mean punishment, it means assessment. It is often a warning sign of more to come. Talk, explore the reasons, address how you can help or get them help. Do not wait. Encourage your teen to talk with his teacher. Never be afraid to email or talk with the teacher yourself as long as you do not blame the teacher for the bad grade.

Examine your expectations. Are you expecting ‘A’s from a student who can never deliver ‘A’s? Is your child struggling to get a C in a very hard course and you expect an A? Maybe that is unreasonable. Maybe a B matches what the student can do. It is very difficult to raise a grade from a C to an A; so quitting sometimes seems like a better option for the teen. Punishing does not motivate, realistic goals do. By setting a reasonable bar, success can occur. In reverse, setting the bar high enough to keep your child motivated is a tough balancing act.

Negotiate, do not nag. If you start the school year setting reasonable expectations and attach reasonable consequences, it may help to stop the nagging. Set goals together, both short term and long term. You cannot watch the ball game unless your paper is done. Or you cannot have the car unless the science project is complete. Limit computer access, text messaging, cell phone use, Facebook time, game time, or whatever is necessary to focus attention on the important task of school work. You are still in charge. Set expectations and limits. Negotiate and plan. An organized, planned household does help success and establishes good habits for the future.

There are hundreds of books on parenting teens. Communication is a central theme of many. The title of one of my favorite books about teens says it all:
Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, Revised and Updated – by Anthony E. Wolf Ph.D. and Anthony E. Wolf

Do not hesitate to ask me specific questions regarding adolescents; questions about learning, motivation, ADHD, the college process, and behavior are just a few examples. Email: [email protected]


andrea golvsky

Andrea Glovsky of AMG Educational Consultants is a nationally known speaker on college and prep school placement, adolescents, and educational issues. She counsels families both in the US and internationally on applying to colleges and independent schools. She also conducts seminars on topics such as adolescent motivation, homework, and the financial aid process. An educator for over 35 years, she taught in both public and private schools.
Feel free to email questions to Ask Andrea at [email protected]  and please visit:

To read, Andrea’s previous education article, click on the link below:

ASK ANDREA: How do we keep students learning over the summer?

PHOTO: My old maths classroom at the Abraham Lincoln School

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