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It’s back to school and have I got a deal for you!

As a teacher of middle and high school students for 27 years I have become pretty knowledgeable about family practices in the homes of teenage students.  I’ve spent years observing parents doing things that work for teens as well as things that don’t really work. Today, I’m going to share a bit of what I’ve learned.  And it’s all FREE! Take it or leave it.

Your first free gift—

Consider letting them have their messy bedroom this school year!

You heard me! If it starts to be a time consuming, repetitive, exasperating, argument— LET IT GO!  If I had a nickel for every parent who complained about the teen bedroom situation, well I would have a whole crap load of nickels!

The teen you see now is NOT a snapshot of who they will be as an adult! But, here is what you can do to help them out!

Model having a clean bedroom.  Invite them into your room. Sit together and talk on the cozy bed that you make every day. Let them observe the end table clear of debris, and a floor void of clothing.   Believe me, it might not seem like much, but the Teen Brain is very aware of what you are DOING and recording it all so that it can be retrieved later in life as needed.

Put limits on what is allowed in the bedroom.  Eating and drinking are for the kitchen or dining room or living room, but NOT for the sleeping room. A messy room is acceptable; a bacteria laden, spoiled milk smellin, infestation promoting room is not acceptable. With the exception of water or when a child is ill, there is no reason to have food and drink in the bedroom.   Again, model it!

Train your child to clean early in life.  Sure, but this one comes with a caveat. The child that has learned to clean her room every Saturday and is in the habit of picking up her clothing, and is able to keep it so darn cute and immaculate, may or may not be able/willing to continue as a 13-year old.  So, let’s be flexible and kind.

A second free gift—

Enjoy laughing more this school year!

Believe me, the expectations of teens in schools today is nothing if not SERIOUS!  Good gracious, the grades, the tests, the rigor, the planning for the future, the objectives with no-time wasted! AAHRG!

What can you do about it?  Well, if you want your child to be emotionally healthy and yes, even happy, make your home the ‘get-away’ for your child.  Make it a place where they can have both their needed privacy as well as fun and relaxation.  And, seek opportunities to help them laugh.  Find out what trips their silly bone and do it together.  A game?  A YouTube channel?  A comical TV show?

Again, model it!  We can show them how we don’t take everything so seriously.  When the home becomes ‘need-fulfilling’ our children will be less inclined to go elsewhere, perhaps less healthy places, to meet this need.

A few more free gifts—

The following additional  suggestions are derived from the Parent Report Card of the Western Psychological Services by Linda Berg-Cross, Ph.D., ABPP.   Take a look—

My parent:

Tells me he or she loves me.
Lets me act my age.
Keeps my secrets.
Buys me clothes that I like.
Lets me listen to music I like.
Listens to my problems without judging.
Is willing to drive me places.
Likes my friends.
Helps me get up when I oversleep.
Makes the holidays special.
Includes me in family decisions.
Is understanding about poor grades.

I truly believe these suggestions will help set conditions for a more loving and less stressful home and subsequently a more successful school experience.

All the best to you and your child(ren) as you begin the 2018-2019 school year.

About the author

Kate Martin

Kate Martin has been a high school teacher for 27 years and retired from the Racine Unified School District in 2015. 

She taught students with special needs as well as those in general education. While working with hundreds of parents over the years, she discovered that there was a significant lack of resources and educational opportunities to help them navigate the many demands of parenting today. 

For this reason, in 2013 she founded The Purposeful Parent, offering workshops and resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.  

Buy the Book by Kate Martin: The Best Thoughts To Think Five minutes Before Bed 

Visit my website:

Other articles by Kate Martin:

Now I lay me down to sleep

Kindness is a two-way street

Child Expectations