By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator
I am a single parent and the mother of a freshman. My daughter's first progress reports have been horrible. I am attributing some of her lack of attention to "Snap out of it. The summer's over."
The other problem is that she is text-messaging a lot to the point where she has gone over 300 messages in a month. If I don't see improvement, I'm taking her cell phone away during school hours. What's going on with my freshman?
As a parent myself, I understand how alarming a bad progress report can be. I also want to reassure you that you're dealing with some pretty common issues for a parent of a freshman.
The transition to high school is often challenging and scary. Couple that with normal behavior of teens this age, i.e. wanting to be with friends all the time and it's easy to see how grades can slip.
My first suggestion is to help your daughter with her priorities. Establish some priorities that your family can embrace. Let her know that you understand how important it is to spend time with friends, but that she has other responsibilities as well. For instance, you might suggest the following priorities: family first, then academics, extracurricular activities and then friends. Talk with her about your feelings and come to an agreement with her on these priorities.
Make this a part of your regular discussions with her. If the agreement is that academics come before her friends, and it is a regular message from you, it will make it a little easier to keep her on track with her grades. She makes decisions each day about doing homework, talking with friends, watching TV, etc. Help her make good choices by helping her set priorities.
Regarding the 300 text messages, it's helpful to understand that friendships and communication are vitally important to teens, especially girls. Text-messaging is a way of communicating that we never had as kids. It is one of the many ways teens communicate today, almost like teens passing notes in our day. For her, 300 text messages may seem very low. That could mean she's only sending five each day and receiving five each day. "Five a day mom. That's nothing!" she might say.
I would start by finding out the school's policy on cell phone use at school. Many schools will not allow cell phones to be used during school hours. If this is the case, it makes your job easier. Simply reiterate your agreement about the importance of academics and let her know that you'll be helping to enforce the school's policy.
If the school does not have this policy, then I would suggest talking with her about the cell phone use, trying to come to an agreement that you can both live with. Her cell phone use may or may not be linked to her disappointing progress report. If, after a few weeks, she has shown she cannot keep her end of the agreement, then you could always take the phone away during school hours.
The main message, however, is helping her understand the importance of priorities and to have her be part of the agreement the two of you make about those priorities.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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