Being proactive now can help your teen feel greater confidence when school starts. Sam Cummins, Shelterwood Dean of Student Services, shares our tips on what parents can do over the summer to help teens start the school year on the right foot.

Boys Going Canoeing.

1.) Show, don’t tell.

Showing your teen what to do carries much more weight than telling them what to do. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned as both a parent and an educator is that parents need to model the behaviors they want to see in their children,” Sam says. “When your teen sees you practicing certain habits, there’s nothing better.”

2.) Build on both strengths and weaknesses.

Spend some time reflecting on both your child’s strengths and weaknesses from the past school year. “If your teen had a tough year in math, for example, help them with some enrichment activities there,” Sam says. Look for resources both through your local library and online. Khan Academy is an especially helpful platform that guides students in learning different concepts. Allowing teens to dive deeper into areas where they excel is also a smart summer strategy. Encourage them to pursue subjects they really enjoy.

3.) Begin ACT and SAT prep.

Just 10 minutes a day can make an impactful difference when it’s time for your teen to take college entrance exams. “After your teen does some practice questions, take some time to look together at the answers. Help your teen notice why she got certain questions right and why she got certain questions wrong. Then, approach those areas where knowledge gaps need to be filled.” Teens can be reluctant about test prep, so encourage them to start with a few minutes each day. This attainable goal sets your teen up for success.

4.) Model work-life balance.

“For many teens, their schedules are crowded during the school year. So summer can be a good time to model a healthy work-life balance for your teen,” Sam says. “Teens can feel like they are under lots of pressure during the school year and so they do not learn healthy ways to have fun. Think of ways that you can do some positive leisure activities together.” Sam and his daughter enjoy going for hikes together, for example.

5.) Start healthy habits now.

Creating new habits happens gradually, so set the stage for healthy habits now. “Especially as you move into July, it’s time to start slowly turning the ship.” Again, modeling smart behavior goes much farther with teens. If your teen has been staying up late and sleeping in, start the shift as a family with earlier bedtimes. “Starting small can be helpful and can show your teen what it looks like to make positive changes in life.

Ultimately, Sam says, focus on using time this summer to build a relationship and earn influence with your teen. “As a parent, you don’t have to have it all together and you don’t have to be perfect,” Sam says. “Starting small can be helpful.”