This post is sponsored by The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are my own.
“Being a parent will change the way you teach,” a parent volunteer told me during my third year of teaching first grade. I never would have known this had I not returned to teaching this past fall. I love a good challenge but returning to teach middle school after the year already started?
My husband thought I was crazy, and my own kids thought I shouldn’t do it. Fellow parents of teens thought signing a contract that required me to spend more time with 13-14 year olds was insane.
But as I look back on a year that had a rocky start and a most unusual end (thanks coronavirus school closures!), I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I taught 8th graders how to create websites, build video games, and about topics like artificial intelligence. I also gained the trust and respect of my students which means the world to me.
How have I become a trusted adult for my students?
I teach the same way I parent— with kindness, compassion, trust, and a focus on social and emotional learning (SEL). At home and at school I like to give my kids and students independence but support them along the way.
I’ve worked hard to cultivate respect in our family and in my classroom. I let my own teens and those in my classroom learn from their failures, manage their emotions, and demonstrate kindness to each other.
Yes, I am a computer science teacher, but I also believe in cultivating SEL skills with my students just like I do with my own teens at home. Spending lots of time around teens has allowed me to learn what leads to happy successful teens.
6 Tips for Raising Happy, Successful Teens
Giving kids tools they need to be successful means providing them the chance to practice basic life skills and social emotional skills. The process of learning social and emotional skills is called social-emotional learning (SEL).
Social emotional competence is a greater predictor of lifelong success than academic grades. In fact, students who score high on social skills are four times more likely to complete college.
Building SEL skills can help teens develop a stronger sense of self but if you’re not sure where to start, The Allstate Foundation’s free ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide can help. The guide is also available in Spanish: Jóvenes felices y exitosos.
The Allstate Foundation is committed to empowering youth by providing young people— and those that guide and teach them— with SEL to help build skills like the ability to be empathetic, work as part of a team, and be resilient leads to success in school, work, and life.
Their free ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide is designed to support parents in helping teens build skills for lifelong success. It contains real life lessons for improving self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, managing relationships, and responsible decision making. In times of uncertainty, like we are currently facing in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, these skills are more important than ever.
Below is information from the guide that can help you build happy successful teens at home or in the classroom.
Learn About Social and Emotional Skills
SEL is a term used by educators and a skill taught in classrooms, but these skills can also be taught at home through your regular interactions with your kids.
SEL is the process through which:
- People understand and manage emotions
- Set and achieve positive goals
- Feel and show empathy for others
- Establish and maintain positive relationships
- Make responsible decisions
When children have been taught SEL skills, their academic performance is better. They tend to have more emotional abilities and are better equipped to succeed in the workplace. The benefits of SEL are long lasting.
The Allstate Foundation’s ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide includes great suggestions for helping teens build life skills in five major areas of SEL that are shown by research to build resilience and a strong sense of self.
Set the Stage for Increased Independence
Letting go is hard but it’s an important skill for parents to learn especially if we want our teens to become independent. But we can’t just push them out of the nest. Instead, we have to give them the tools to help them learn to navigate the unfamiliar.
The Allstate Foundation’s ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide advises to start by letting kids practice in low stakes situations. Have them figure out the steps needed to make things happen by asking questions like:
- What terms would you Google?
- What do you think you could do next?
When kids map out the steps needed to solve their problems, they get better each time and realize that they’re capable.
Praise the Process
When it comes to developing self-awareness, our teens are listening to what we say, and watching what we do. Praising the process helps build self-awareness.
Try praising effort, being a model, and finding openings by doing the following things:
- Recognize the effort, rather than the outcome
- Share stories of how you faced challenges and were persistent or call out your mistakes and talk about how you moved past a misstep
- Acknowledge the feelings that come up when you’re working through something difficult— frustration, annoyance, irritation— and talk about how those feelings passed by too
- Listen as your teen talks to you and try to find a way to bring up confidence and taking on challenges. Share strategies that you use now at work or at home and invite your teen into the conversation too
We all want to raise our teens to be kind but how do you teach kindness? The Allstate Foundation recommends:
- Focus on the things they already do
- Encourage small acts of kindness
- Start volunteering as a family
- Show gratitude
- Inject kindness into your teen’s day
Be an Ally
Our relationships with our teens- whether at home or in the classroom- are so important. Trusting, talking to, and respecting your teenager builds an important foundation for your relationship.
Being an ally means:
- Be a trusted resource but show your teen trust by letting them make more decisions, allow them to experience things alone, and be there when they need you
- Create explicit opportunities for unstructured family activities and communication like playing games, sitting together, asking them to help you with things that foster cooperation
- Talk about the relationships in their life and invite them to discuss the relationships in theirs. In addition to telling your teens about your relationships with family and friends you can talk about the ones you see in TV and movies and ask them about the relationships they see.
Practice Good Decision Making
Kids can’t make wise decisions if they never have the chance to practice and they won’t learn to choose wisely if they don’t experience the consequences for failing to do so. The Allstate Foundation’s ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide suggests giving your teen the room and responsibility to make decisions that affect their daily life by doing the following:
- Give them natural consequences
- Provide small doses of freedom
- Let your teen figure out what to do next
- Give them knowledge they need to make good decisions
- Make decisions as a family
Providing real life lessons for teens helps build resilience and a strong sense of self. For additional tips and more information, on raising happy successful teens, download The Allstate Foundation’s free ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide from the WeAreTeachers website. The guide is also available in Spanish and can be downloaded here.
This post was written as part of The Allstate Foundation and We Are Teachers SEL Parent Guide campaign, and sponsored by The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are mine. The Allstate Foundation empowers young people— and those that guide and teach them— with social and emotional skills to build character and transform lives. Learn more at https://allstatefoundation.org/