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7 tips for helping your young teen start the school year right

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SALT LAKE CITY — Life is a complicated and messy endeavor. In LIFEadvice, Life Coach Kim Giles is here to help you with simple, principle- based solutions to the challenges you face. Coach Kim will empower you to get along with others and become the best you.


My junior high student is really nervous about the upcoming year. Is there anything I can do to help make this experience more enjoyable and take away his fears? How can I help him start this big transition year off right?

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There are some things you can do to lessen his fears. Here are a couple suggestions (pay special attention to the last one):

  1. Let him know that it’s OK to be a little scared. Almost everyone feels some fear when starting something new.
  2. Help him to understand the nature of fear. Let him know things always seem scarier than they really are. Every experience turns out better and easier than we think it will. The fear we experience we have beforehand is the worst part. Luckily, that part is almost over. Once school starts he will feel better.
  3. Stay involved and show interest in his school experience. Ask lots of questions about what he thinks and feels about it (but only if he’s in the mood to talk — don’t interrogate him). Just show that you care and want to be there for him. Do more listening than talking; too much advice from mom and dad makes things worse.
  4. Come up with a good routine for the school year. Get a calendar so you can keep track of everyone’s schedules. Set aside a time and place for homework. These routines are very helpful and make children feel more secure.
  5. Instead of focusing on what he “has to do” focus on what he “gets to learn.” Be positive and excited about learning and school. If you see school as a fun experience, your child will, too.
  6. Speak positively about the school, administrators, teachers and kids. If your child hears you criticize others, it gives him permission to focus on the negative about these people, too. Even if you disagree with their policies, be careful what you say in front of your child. If you see the school as “stupid” he will, too. When you put down other people, you may subconsciously give your child permission to bully others. Watch what you say and keep it positive.
  7. Help your child decide who he wants to be this year — ahead of time. The most difficult part of growing up is figuring out who you are and how you fit in. Your child will spend a lot of time this year trying to figure out who he is. You can make this year easier by helping him create a sense of identity ahead of time by completing the following exercise (this exercise would be good for you and your other children, too):

Get out a piece of paper and write down the different roles you each have, such as son, daughter, sister, brother, parent, spouse, friend, student, employee.


Figure out how you want to show up in each of those roles. What kind of a brother do you want to be this year? What kind of a friend do you want to be? What kind of a student would you like to be? Write down specific details about how you would like to see yourself in each role.

Get a fresh piece of paper and write those things again, as if you already are those things. For example:

"I want to be a good student who gets good grades and turns in all homework on time,” becomes: “I am a good student who gets good grades and turns in all homework on time." Here are some other examples:

  • "I keep track of assignments in my planner and check it multiple times a day."
  • "I am a good friend who is loyal and kind."
  • "I am a good big brother who looks out for my younger siblings."

You get the idea.

This should be a very detailed description of the person he (or you) want to be this year. When you make these decisions ahead of time, it becomes easy to make good choices in the moment. Deciding who you are (then knowing who you are) creates self-worth and empowers people (and students) to be their best.

Encourage your son to keep this paper where he will read it daily. You may want to read it every morning and start the day off right. Some of my clients read this paper three times a day to help them remember who they are.

If you do this exercise as a family, don’t tell your child what they “should” want to be. You can ask guiding questions about what’s important to them, but you must let them decide who they want to be.

Some teens would rather do this project alone and not have mom and dad involved. This is OK. You want them to make good choices for themselves. They must decide that making those good choices is what they want. Empower your children by letting them know you trust them to make good choices, because they are such awesome, amazing, smart people.

When you see the best in others, it encourages them to want to be that.

Hope these ideas help.

Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of and She is a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in clarity: seeing yourself, others and situations accurately.

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