How To Help Teens Reevaluate Their Educational Goals If They Fall Behind

One of the consequences of online learning during COVID-19 is that many teens are falling behind with their educational goals. For some, that’s the result of online learning, which for some can be less dynamic and effective than in-person education. Other teens are falling behind due to mental health struggles, or because they’re not able to receive hands-on support for learning differences. Regardless of the reason, how can parents help teens catch up with their educational goals?

Why Are Educational Goals Important?

The educational system has become incredibly competitive, with more pressure than ever for teens to make life decisions concerning career and education at an increasingly young age. This has become more obvious since many students have been forced by the pandemic to change how they are learning. With so many more teens experiencing mental health challenges during this time as well, students around the United States and the world have fallen behind in their educational goals.

Therefore, this is an opportunity for parents and teens to sit down together and re-evaluate goals while discussing what teens need and want out of their education. As a result, some students may find themselves changing their goals. This should not be perceived as a failure, but rather as a success in resilience. In fact, it is often in times of crisis that people find increased focus and purpose; their goals may change altogether based on what they have learned about themselves.

Setting and Reinforcing Realistic Goals for Your Teen

Many teens are motivated to achieve the educational goals they set before COVID-19, but it is important to ensure that these goals are realistic for each student. For example, a student who always struggled with mathematics, but has fallen behind in their course completion plan, might benefit from re-evaluating their goal in that subject.

Are all of these courses necessary to achieve a teen’s overarching career and educational goals? Has your teen recently discussed these goals with a college or career counselor to explore whether there is a more efficient way for them to progress toward their ultimate next step?

Sometimes, the desired goal remains the same, but the short-term goals need to be changed. Alternative learning options may be called for. For example, taking classes during the summer or evenings can help to decrease the obstacles created by mental health challenges, problems with online learning, or learning differences. Investing in tutoring or creating a study group online or in person, as available, may be enough to close the gap. Families may be able to add extra support, such as tutoring or a support course. Breaking down their larger goals into smaller pieces can help teens realize that they are still capable of achieving their educational plans.

Finding Support in Alternative Learning Options

Schools can be excellent resources to find additional support for students who are struggling. If they are not available for additional time and tutoring, teachers can make families aware of peer tutors, college tutors, workshops, and extra resources available for free or at a low cost.

Additionally, there are many community colleges and even four-year schools that offer online classes. Teens may even be able to find classes that will help them correct an educational deficit while also gaining college credit for taking an online course. There are also programs within communities that offer additional support for students with disabilities or mental health diagnoses. Often, finding the needed support is simply a matter of asking the right people.

For teens who struggle in expected learning situations because of mental health or co-occurring issues, a Therapeutic Day School may be a good option. Here, they would get a chance to continue their studies, while also going through treatment to support their recovery in a safe environment.

Keeping Teens Motivated During Online Learning

Phrases like “catching up,” “falling behind,” or “failing” do not inspire or motivate students. Here are some ideas for keeping teens motivated in their educational goals.

  • Create short-term goals. For example, if a student needs to repeat an entire semester or year of a subject, focus on one unit at a time. Encourage them not to focus on the entire course, but rather focus on each task at hand, completing each assignment or test.
  • Celebrate each success. Celebrate the completion of each segment, especially for difficult units or assignments. Celebrating as a family or even by making announcements on family social media can help students feel successful and stay motivated.
  • Let them choose rewards. Encourage students to find ways to reward themselves as they do the extra work to get back on track with their goals. Rewards can be simple, like special time with a family member, help with a hobby, or something like a new book or video game for larger accomplishments.
  • Create a chart or tracking system. Making the time to create a chart to track smaller achievements can help teens see that they are making progress toward larger goals. This is even more helpful if they create the chart or system of tracking, so they feel more ownership of their successes.

Building Self-Esteem and Academic Confidence in Teens

Perceived failure can quickly lead to real issues with self-esteem and insecurities. Parents and caregivers can listen and talk with teens about how they feel regarding their educational accomplishments and where they stand with their goals. Providing positive reframes and supportive feedback surrounding their efforts will help them create more belief in themselves, improve their academic confidence and performance, and hence fortify their self-esteem. Making support groups or therapy available to your teen may also help them feel better about their successes.

It’s helpful to remember that many students are in the same situation right now. Your teen is not alone, and there is nothing wrong with revisiting and restructuring their educational goals. Finding support and help for areas in which they may be struggling is a sign of strength and dedication. Teens may have lost some time during this crisis, but they can still focus on their future self and creating the life they desire.