Pass along the importance of learning

Ways to promote the value of education at home.

Teens face dramatic changes when they leave elementary school and move into middle school, then again moving to high school – more teachers, less personal attention, new peers, harder classes, puberty and awkward experiences with their growing intellectual skills. They need help getting organized and accustomed to their new school life. Older adolescents become more self-confident and independent, but face difficult choices and worries for the future. They need help clarifying school and future goals. Most of all, they need parental guidance and support in developing a personal commitment of valuing their own education. Michigan State University Extension’s Building Strong Adolescents program suggests ways parents can help their teens with educational values.

Research has shown that there are developmental assets all teens need, which contribute to success at school and in the future. Assets that help teen’s value education involve academic achievement, personal development and social competencies. Assets in academic achievements include things like doing their best, taking challenging courses and completing homework. Personal developmental assets include being motivated by an internal desire to achieve, finding challenges enjoyable, developing unique interest and talents, and setting personal goals. Assets related to social competencies include finding a place to belong, demonstrating a sense of fairness, justice and generosity and being involved in extracurricular activities and groups.

Teens that learn educational values from parents tend to apply their values and skills to school. Those who gain confidence in expressing their thoughts during dialogue at home will be more likely to participate in classroom discussions and accept other viewpoints. When teens learn the value of questioning, they are more likely to seek help when they don’t understand something. Teens who gain competence in solving intellectual and practical problems at home are usually able to master their schoolwork as well.

Here are some suggestions to start discussions with your teen:

  • Ask for predictions – “What will school be like when you are a parent?”
  • Bring up current political or religious issues.
  • Share interesting experiences of your own and point out interesting things you have learned at work or in leisure.
  • Discuss the meanings and values that underlie controversial issues. “What rights should criminals have?” “Why?”
  • Discuss issues that affect teen life. “I read that sexual harassment in high school is common. As a teen, do you think that is true?”
  • Encourage teens to think about action. “Have you ever thought about what you would do if you saw someone shoplifting?”
  • Ask for explanations. “Maybe you can help me understand why teens smoke when they know all the health hazards.”
  • Share their puzzlement and feelings when they ask unanswerable questions. “I wonder why God allows hunger.”
  • Discuss practical problems. “Let’s brainstorm some ways for you to earn extra money this summer.”
  • Ask for help. “Can you look at this letter I am writing?”

It seems obvious that parents should create homes where the value of learning is communicated and where the parents keep in contact with schools. Unfortunately, parents often assume teens no longer need parental help in learning. Also, the parents may be stressed and involved in their own problems, or are too busy with daily tasks to offer the help teens need, or to stay in touch with the school. But, just as jogging must be done regularly to improve the body, consistent intellectual exercise is needed to strengthen the mind!

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