Does your teen have a bad case of senioritis? If so, he or she may be skipping school, slacking off on projects, and generally treating school as if it's elective rather than compulsory. Needless to say, this can be challenging for you, your child's teachers—and your teen, too. It's useful to remember that this too, shall pass, even though it might not feel like it right now. Here are 5 tips for parents of teens with signs, symptoms—or a full-blown case of senioritis.
1. Keep Their Eyes on the Prize. The second semester of senior year for many kids just doesn't matter to them; grades (which might have worked to hold your child accountable and keep them on task in the past) no longer have much meaning. If your teen is going to college in the fall, acceptance is based on previous grades. If he or she isn't going to college, grades often have even less meaning. The truth is, most kids just want to be out of school. The good news is, that's what you can help them do. Sit down and have a problem-solving conversation with them. What do they have to do to graduate and be done with high school? Help your teen "keep their eye on the prize." They don't have to love school, but they do have to finish.
2. Playing Sick to Skip. If you suspect your child has been "playing sick" to get out of going to school, let her know that if she doesn't get out of bed, she shouldn't be doing anything else, like going online, texting her friends, spending hours in front of the TV or playing video games. If she's too sick to go to school, she shouldn't be going out of the house, either. Those limits should be set and followed through.
3. How to Stick to the Limits You Set. If your senior high school student is breaking the rules left and right, remember that you often have control over very important things in your teen's life: car keys, cell phone payments, computer access. The consequences you give should be tied to behaviors and time-limited. For example, loss of the car for a period of time after your teen leaves school and rides around town, or loss of cell phone during weekdays for a week if your child is spending all day texting instead of doing any work.
4. Help Make the Next Step Less Scary. Helping your teen look toward the future, whether it's college, a gap year, or working can motivate them to move through this difficult time. Some kids are struggling with uncertainty about life after high school. They're feeling like they're done with school, but aren't really ready for the next step. As a parent there are things you can do to help make that next step more attainable, and less scary. Taking trips to the colleges they are considering helps them focus on the future. If your child is considering alternatives to college, you can help them consider what a gap year might look like, or talk with them about how to find out more about what they'd like to do. Job-shadows can be so helpful for your kids because it allows them to actually experience what that work could look like. Be creative. If you have a friend with an interesting job, maybe they'd be willing to let your child come to work with them for a day. You can also check with the school to see if they have a job-shadowing program.
5. Talk to your child's school about programs that combat senioritis. Many schools are addressing the prevalence of senioritis by introducing alternatives to schoolwork during the last month of school. Programs often include job shadowing, community service projects, and internships. If your child's school doesn't have this option, you may still be able to help your child do this. Your child may be the kid who spends last semester building a boat, working in a daycare, working at the state park, or assisting a designer. All of these experiences are going to be important as he or she steps from school into the next chapter of their lives.
About Janet Lehman, MSW
Janet Lehman, MSW, has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. A veteran social worker, she specializes in child behavior issues — ranging from anger management and oppositional defiance to more serious criminal behavior in teens. In addition, Janet gained a personal understanding of child learning and behavior challenges from her son, who struggled with learning disabilities in school. She is co-creator of The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide To Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™.