Following on from my blog yesterday about questions to ask your primary school child before they start school, here is the equivalent version for parents/teachers of teens.
Yes, some teens are harder to have this kind of conversation with compared to kids. But I've worked with many hundreds teens over the last 20 years, and I think the "teenagers don't talk" stereotype is exaggerated. Although teens are more likely to grunt, walk off and sign mid conversation than the average 9 year old - this is often because they - often accuratey - get the sense that the conversation is an excuse for us adults to give advice, sneak a quick lecture in or interrogate them for our own purposes.
I've found that when I am genuinely curious, interested in and gentle with teenagers, they often can't stop telling me what they think.
Sure, school isnt the most interesting topic for teens - but if we can ask them about topics slightly wider than just school grades/assignments, they will often become more interested in the conversation and will share lots of great stuff.
Here are some question ideas. Remember, with teens, keep it casual, light, do something while you are talking to them (fold laundry, drive the car, walk the dog) and make it about finding out about them, not giving advice. Don't feel the need to ask all of these questions below - stop when they've had enough, but maybe ask a few more next week.
- What do you think will be different about being in Year X compared to last year?
- Is there anyone in particular you are looking forward to seeing?
- What subjects do you think will be the most challenging for you?
- Are there any subjects you are looking forward to?
- If you could choose your teachers for each subject, who would you want?
- How do you think your friends feel about going back to school?
- Is there anything about any subjects at school this year that makes you worried?
- If you could choose some students in your year to permanently move to Iceland, who would you pick?
- Is there anything I can do to help you enjoy the year this year?
- Do you have any thoughts about how much homework you expect there to be?
- Is there anything you want to do differently with homework this year?
- What do you feel you did pretty well last year - not so much with grades, but with study habits or organisation?
- Do you have any personal goals for yourself this year? Anything to do with music, or sport, or other hobbies, or perhaps your health or dealing with people any differently?
- Do you think there is likely to be any conflict in your group of friends this year?
- Do you want to mostly hang out with the same people this year, or get to know others?
- Any kinds of food you want to pack more for lunch this year?
- Is there anything about last school year, that you felt embarrassed or upset about, that you wanted to tell me but felt like you couldn't at the time?
- Is there anything I can do to help you feel like it's easier to talk to me or tell me stuff?
- Do you have any study goals for the year - like grades, or perhaps the kinds of things you want to do/not do in class or in frees?
- Do you have any thoughts about new habits around exercise, sleep or other health areas this year?
- Any ideas about how we should handle things we disagree about when it comes to school work or homework this year?
Clinical Psychologist Specialising in working with kids and teens
If you have any concerns about your teen starting school again this year, or your teen needs some help in improving their study skills, motivation or ability to manage stress or worry - feel free to give us a call on 8357 1711 to make an appointment. Medicare rebates available. We can also see parents for 1-2 sessions to help support teens, if the teen is not interested in attending the appointment. Click here for more information about our counselling services.