Back to School Tips for Teens

Back to School Tips for Teens: Good Grades, Healthy Habits, and Safe Driving

For many teens, the first day of school is right around the corner. Some start as late as end of Labor Day, others start as early as this week! The early mornings of the school-year mean flipping back to the old routine, but the lazy habits of summer might be difficult to break for teens who adopted a less than strict schedule during vacation. After months of lounging, late nights, sleeping in, and, maybe a summer job, the daily grind of early mornings, homework and, yes, more responsibilities, isn’t always a welcome change.

While taking back the summer haze of relaxation is just another battle that most parents fight, there are ways to smooth the transition so teens don’t dig their heels in the sand and resist the new changes too much. Readjusting teens, however, goes beyond just the alarm clock.

Parents also need to reset boundaries that might have been lax during the summer. Smart phone use, driving privileges, wake-up times, and late nights all need to be reexamined to see if the rules have been bent too much during the summer. Break those bad habits now, before the battle intensifies as the school year commences.

Get Healthy With Phone Privileges

Most parents relax phone use during the summer. The days are longer, kids are out with their friends, and late nights don’t necessarily have the same ramifications as they would during the school year. If your teen is spending too many hours at night or during the day texting, gaming, using social media or even talking into the night, it’s time to set the limits again.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, studies have shown that time spent on devices correlates to a teen’s level of happiness. And, not surprisingly, spending more time on that phone or device makes teens less happy. Emotional well being is important to self-esteem and good health. That time spent on the phone is detrimental to that well-being, and parents must set limitations.

If the family has adopted a smartphone contract, then the limitations and rules of that contract need to be reinforced now. However, if there is not guidance that stipulates the rules of the phone, then it’s time to create a contract. A smartphone contract is a written document that outlines all the guidelines teens must follow if they wish to have cell phone privileges. The contract can include stipulations for when (and where) phones can be used, app restrictions, texting limitations, social media rules, and who pays for a damaged, lost or stolen phone. Many families also include consequences for any cell phone violations. After creating a contract, have teens read it and sign it. Make sure they have a copy of the contract for reference.

Build Safe Driving Habits

Teens that hold their license might have been given more road privileges during the longer days of summer. As the days grow shorter (and darker), parents need to step back and reexamine the rules of the road once again.

One of the biggest dangers to teens on the road is distracted driving. A distraction is any task that takes the driver’s eyes off the road—eating, drinking, flipping the radio station, and cell phone use. In 2016, more than 3,000 people died from crashes caused by distracted driving and hundreds of thousands are injured.

Distracted driving must be addressed in a smartphone contract. Teens need to know that the phone is absolutely not allowed to be used while driving. Even hands free talking can be fatal. If the phone is too much of a lure, then utilize programs that lockdown phones during drive time. Apple’s iOS11 offers “Do Not Disturb while driving,” which sends a message to anyone who calls or texts to notify them that the individual is occupied. Focus by TeenDrive also can be used to keep teen drivers safe on the road. Focus allows parents to block apps, view a teen’s GPS location on the road and locks down the phone so teens can’t text or talk.  Both options allow the phone to be used in case of emergencies, however. The benefit of Focus over Do Not Disturb is that your teen can’t turn it off.

Parents also can insist upon another contract—a driving contract—that outlines all the rules and regulations of a teen maintaining driving privileges. This contract should include rules of the road, what to do after a crash, what documents to keep in the car, and any driving limitations (no nighttime driving, etc.). Distracted driving also should be addressed, and parents also should include any consequences for violating the contract. Teens should read and sign their contract and keep a copy for reference.

Perform Better In School With Wake-Up Calls

As for heading back to the bell schedule, parents need to ease their teen’s internal clock back to the old routine. If school doesn’t start until end of Labor Day, you may still have time to make it a healthy transition.

If teens are sleeping until noon each day, it’s time to break the bad habit. So early wake-ups aren’t a shock to the system, adjust the wake up time about an hour earlier each day or every other day. Parents also can try half-hour adjustments. Consistent adjustments are ideal, because most teens can’t and shouldn’t try to reset their clocks overnight.

Although most teens don’t necessarily have bedtimes anymore, insist on a time when the lights, television and phones are off. No activities should be allowed after a certain time, and every parent has a different opinion on the definition on how late is ‘too late.’ Regardless, set limitations on how late teens stay up gaming, zoning out in front of the screen or talking to friends. Poor sleep leads to bad performance in school, which means bad grades.

As the weeks inch closer to the beginning of the school year, prepare teens for the return of the old schedule by establishing rules and limitations for phones, driving and their morning routine. While no teen wants to say goodbye to the lazy summer, boundaries are healthy and necessary for starting off the new year right.

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