5 Ways to Help Your Teen Be Successful in High School

Let’s face it—it’s likely been a few years since you were a student, and you might not remember the ins and outs of high school specifically. However, you do have the benefit of hindsight, which likely taught you that success in high school can be directly related to success in college and beyond.

There’s no doubt that the high school years can be difficult for a teen. Not only are there social pressures and additional obligations such as sports or after-school jobs, but the academic requirements are also much more rigorous than in previous years. Here’s how you can help your teen be successful in high school in today’s world.


Stay Engaged

A little support can be instrumental to your teen's academic success.
Caiaimage / Tom Merton / Getty Images

Sometimes, parents back off once their child reaches high school. But backing off too much is a common parenting mistake that can backfire.

Teenagers do better academically when their parents are engaged. You don’t have to hover (and you certainly no longer need to walk them into the building), but you can still stay involved without overdoing it.

Attend back-to-school nights to meet the teachers and attend parent-teacher conferences to discuss how your teen is doing in class.

Remember, a teacher might only set up a conference if there’s a serious problem to discuss, but you can request a meeting with a teacher or principal at any time, even if it’s just to touch base.

Unfortunately, many teens will say things are going well even when they’re falling behind. And by the time parents learn about the problem, it’s often too late to remedy the situation.

Not all problems show up on a report card. It can also be helpful to learn how your teen is doing socially and behaviorally as well.


Know the School

Teacher in classroom.

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Don’t rely on your teen to tell you everything that’s going on, including schedules for clubs, special events such as dances, or testing dates. For that, head to the school website, where you can find calendars, school staff contact information, and resources for parents to help their child at home.

Many teachers have their own class websites that they update daily with homework and other reminders. Get to know your child’s teachers by name so you can specifically ask questions about what’s going on with each teacher.

You should know the school’s physical layout too. It’s easier to talk to your teen about the school day when you can visualize the places they are talking about. Learn the location of the office, library, cafeteria, gym, auditorium, and athletic fields, at the very minimum.


Create a Distraction-Free Environment

Student at work in library

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Your teen probably thinks they can do their homework successfully in front of the TV, but most teenagers need a quiet, well-lit, and distraction-free place to do their homework and study for tests. This might be a desk in their TV-free room or a designated table in the living room.

If you’re not sticking nearby, check in from time to time to make sure your teen isn’t distracted by a text message conversation or simply staring off into space.

You may need to take away your teen’s cell phone or other electronics during homework time if your teen tends to be easily distracted.

This becomes more complicated if your teen is doing homework on a laptop or tablet. They may be tempted to check their social media sites or surf the web rather than stay on task.

There are apps that can limit your teen’s access to certain sites during specific times. You may want to block social media or email until 7 PM or an hour when your teen’s homework should be done.

As your teen matures, the goal should be to help your teen be able to manage their time and impulses better. After all, you won’t be there to monitor their internet use when they are in college.

So there may be times you need to let your teen make some mistakes. Let them get distracted by technology, and then make sure they face natural consequences. Not getting their homework done on time or not having time to participate in a fun activity because their work isn’t done may help them be more responsible next time.


Encourage Your Teen to Get Help

Teacher and student sitting together with digital tablet and laptop

Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty Images

If the last time you studied precalculus was when you were in high school, you probably won’t be of much use when your teen has questions. But if your teen is struggling, they might not be willing to get the assistance they need.

Talk to teens about how to find someone who can help them. Staying after school for a homework club, meeting with a teacher individually, or seeking assistance from another student could make a big difference in their grade.

If you can afford to do so, hiring a tutor may be helpful as well. Sometimes college students or other high school students offer affordable assistance.

If you are able to help your teen, make sure you’re helping them and not doing the work for them. Although it can be easier to just write the paper yourself or correct mistakes for them, they won’t learn if you do the work.


Encourage Reading

School girl (14-15) reading on floor by bookshelf in library

Jetta Productions / Getty Images

It can be hard to get teens to read books. Many of them prefer to entertain themselves with social media or Netflix rather than reading magazine articles or full-length books.

But reading can provide your teen with a multitude of benefits.

One study of identical twins found that children and teens who read more scored higher on intelligence tests than their siblings. They did better on both verbal and nonverbal intelligence questions.

Don’t be picky about what your teen reads, as long as she’s reading a book. Whether they prefer graphic novels or teen romance books, the important thing is that they are reading something they find mentally engaging.

Getting your teen interested in books can help boost their brainpower over the long haul too. People who read regularly are less likely to experience cognitive decline later in life. While they may not appreciate that now, they will someday.

Unplugging from their electronics for a while and getting lost in a good book could be one of the simplest ways to help them perform better at school. And it can serve as a good reminder to your teen that learning can be fun.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Michael SL, Merlo CL, Basch CE, Wentzel KR, Wechsler H. Critical Connections: Health and Academics. J Sch Health. 2015;85(11):740-758. doi:10.1111/josh.12309

  2. KidsHealth from Nemours. Helping Your Teen With Homework. 2020.

  3. Ritchie SJ, Bates TC, Plomin R. Does Learning to Read Improve Intelligence? A Longitudinal Multivariate Analysis in Identical Twins From Age 7 to 16. Child Dev. 2015;86(1):23-36. doi:10.1111/cdev.12272

  4. Wilson RS, Boyle PA, Yu L, Barnes LL, Schneider JA, Bennett DA. Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive agingNeurology. 2013;81(4):314-321. doi:10.1212/wnl.0b013e31829c5e8a

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.