What Your Teen Desperately Wants You to Know Before School Starts

An honest, eye-opening perspective of what our teens really need to thrive in school

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: What Your Teen Desperately Wants You to Know Before School Starts

It was one of those open, honest, eye-opening conversations I had with my kids. We were gathered in the living room talking about school starting and how stressed out they were about getting back into the daily grind of homework, sports, their part-time jobs and just keeping up with life. 

But the conversation really shifted when I asked them, “How can I make the school year less stressful for you?”

That’s when the floodgates opened and the three of them chimed in with ideas and thoughts and dos and don’ts. Honestly, so much of what they said really hit home with me that their perspective seemed too good not to share… Here are 15 things your teen desperately wants you to know before school starts.

What Your Teen Desperately Wants You to Know Before School Starts


1. School is Really Hard – Please Tell Me “Bs” and “Cs” Are Okay

Middle school is hard. High school is even harder. The pressure to be smart, to get straight “As,” to build the perfect college resume is so high and exhausting. I need to know you’re on my side, Mom and Dad. I need to know that when I come home with a “B” or a “C” it’s okay, that you won’t be mad at me, and that you realize just how hard this is.

2. Sometimes, I Feel Like I Can’t Keep Up

The stakes are pretty high. I’ve got pressure piled on me from teachers and my counselor, from my coach and my boss, and from you expecting me to behave a certain way, to try hard in school, to get good grades, and get my chores done.

Sometimes, I feel like I just can’t keep up, that I’ll never measure up no matter how hard I try, and that it’s all just too hard. So, when my room gets really messy, I promise I’ll clean it eventually – please don’t nag me. And, if you see me doing what looks like “nothing,” just know I really need that “nothing” time.

3. Friend Drama Can Suck the Life Out of Me… Let Me Vent to You

Gossip, social media, teasing, bullying, being left out, snide remarks, the popularity hierarchy – it sucks the life out of me. It’s hard to keep up with my classes and studying and sports and my part-time job while trying to deal with all of that, too. Sometimes, I don’t want to talk about it; other times I just need to vent about it (even if it IS at 11 o’clock at night when you’re tired)… let me. I don’t need you to fix it. I just need you to listen.

4. I Know You Might Not Believe It, But Sometimes, a Crummy Grade Has Nothing to Do with Me or My Effort

I’ll study so hard for a test and feel I’ve done my best to prepare and then they’ll be questions or material on the test the teacher never taught. So, when I come home with a bad grade, don’t assume I didn’t try. I really am trying. Some things are out of my control.

5. I Don’t Mean to Take My Stress Out on You

When I have three tests to study for, a game coming up on Saturday, my boss increased my hours and my friends are acting weird toward me, I get pretty stressed out. That’s why when you ask me to take the garbage out or walk the dog, I snap like a stretched rubber band. I don’t mean to take it out on you. Sometimes, I say things I regret and I don’t always say I’m sorry. You’re my safe zone and I’m always going to act my worst around you. I DO love you… sometimes, I’m just not very good at showing it.

6. When I Say I Need a Break, Believe Me

I know I can sometimes be lazy. And, I know it doesn’t always look like I have a lot of stress in my life, but there’s a lot going on in my brain that’s sometimes hard to process, and juggling life isn’t always easy.

When I say I’m worn out and need a hooky day, believe me. If I abuse the privilege you can crack down, but give me a day off every now and then just to chill out and take a mental health day.

7. I Like It When You Cheer for Me in the Bleachers – Even Though I Pretend I Don’t

I’ll tell you I don’t care if you come to my game. There will probably be times I’ll tell you not to come. But, I secretly like knowing you’re in the bleachers cheering me on. I love knowing I can count on you and when I look up and see you in the stands, bleachers, or auditorium it reminds me that you’re there for me – especially when I have a crummy game or I feel like I let my team down. 

8. Don’t Contact My Teachers Unless I Say It’s Okay

I know you’re really trying to help, but it’s embarrassing. I’m getting older and I need to handle my teachers on my own. It might be okay sometimes, but let’s talk about it first. Instead, teach me how to communicate with my teachers and talk to them about my grades or a failed test. Don’t take over and do it for me. How will I ever learn?

9. If You Really Want to Make Me Happy, Have the Oreos Waiting

When I come home from school, I’m so worn out from being “on” all day. I don’t feel like telling you how I did on my test or what my teacher thought of my project or how much homework I have. If you really want to make me happy, have my favorite snack waiting for me and let me escape to my bedroom for a couple of hours. I’ll come out and talk after I’ve chilled out by myself for a while.

10. Try Not to Embarrass Me in Front of My Friends

When you drop me off at school in the morning, don’t scream, “I love you!” in front of my friends. When you pick me up in the carpool line after school, don’t stand outside the car waiting for me like you did when I was in Kindergarten. And, I know you like to volunteer at my school (I secretly really like that), but just be cool when you see me. Trust me, if you act cool my friends will think you’re cool, too.

11. Don’t Compare Me to Other Kids

When I tell you about my friend who just landed a cool summer internship or a classmate of mine who’s in line to be class valedictorian or about that kid in my Calculus class who landed an “A” on a crazy hard test, don’t tell me I should try harder or that you wish I was more like them or that if I wasn’t so lazy I could do the things they do.

None of that works. None of that motivates me. It makes me feel inferior and incapable. Instead, tell me I can. Tell me you’ll help me get there. Tell me you’ll stand with me every step of the way.

12. I’m Going to Get Moody and Cranky and Overwhelmed

Expect it. Brace yourself. But know, too, that it’s not about you. It’s me. It’s everything – school and homework and games and friends and gossip and just being tired (so tired) all the time. I’m staying up too late (I can’t help it) and waking up too early. When I”m in a crummy mood or having a bad day, just give me a little time and space to work through my mood. Don’t take it personally. Just pop in my room and leave a brownie on my nightstand so I know you’re there and I know you care. That’s all I need.

13. If I Want to Quit, Don’t Call Me a Quitter

I might join a club or try out for the lacrosse team or the softball team or start volunteering for a cause I’m passionate about. I might bite off more than I can chew. I might not be prepared for how much effort it takes to keep up with my grades. I might want to quit something. If that happens, please don’t call me a quitter. 

Praise me for trying. Praise me for giving it a shot. Praise me for keeping my priorities in order and realizing I’m at the breaking point. Praise me for coming to you and being honest. 

 14. Fitting In Matters to Me

I know Lululemon leggings are really expensive and I know we can’t afford those Nike name-brand athletic shoes I’ve been asking for but they matter to me far more than you know. I know I said I didn’t care. I know I told you it doesn’t matter… but it does.

I’ll try to help pay for it. I just don’t want you to think I’m acting bratty or entitled because I’m asking for expensive things. It’s just that when I walk down the halls of my school it feels good knowing I fit in and I’m not the only kid wearing some weird brand no one’s heard of.

15. Just Be There For Me

I don’t need you to have all the answers. I don’t need you to be perfect or always say the right thing or always react exactly how I wish you would. I just need you to be there supporting me when I do great AND when I mess up. Just show up for me, and listen when I need to vent or share about something cool that happened. Take time to have fun with me, laugh with me and maybe step down from your “parental pedestal” every now and then.

Be the friend I need. Not the buddy-buddy partner in crime kinda friend – just the friend who listens and laughs and supports and loves and accepts me for who I am.

I’m going to do my best to make this a great year, Mom and Dad, and I’m sure I’ll have a few victories to celebrate – landing an “A” on a test, making the team, or finally figuring out how to stay (somewhat) organized. But I’m going to have a few epic fails, too. If I know you’re with me and not against me, those major failures won’t hold me back, they’ll just inspire me to try harder.

So, just stand with me. Just hug me (when I’m in the mood). Just take the tough days in stride. Just be patient with me. Just love me for who I am… it’s going to be a great year.

If you enjoyed reading, “What Your Teen Desperately Wants You to Know Before School Starts,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy reading:

Hey Mom, I Don’t Think I Can Do It All

Should You Have High Expectations of Your Teen? Well…Yes and No


18 Things Your Teen Isn’t Telling You

Share your thoughts below, parents! What are some things your teen desperately wants you to know before the school year starts? Comment below!
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