Can you feel it?  Do you see the signs around you pointing the way from summer back to the new school year?  How does it feel to you as a parent of a teen when you think about starting middle school or high school…or maybe college?

If you’re like many parents, there’s a part of you that is relieved.  Structure and homework, and the end of late morning sleep-ins while the dishes are still piled in the sink are returning to their rightful place.

And there’s the other part of you…the one that dreads the stress, anxiety, depression or overwhelm that school can bring.  This is especially true if your teen struggled to make it to the last day of school last year.  School anxiety meant calls and emails from the attendance office.  Overwhelm, perfection, anxiety or depression meant that homework didn’t get done…that it was a battle, and you feel like you lost every one.

You are clear that you want to have a new start to the new year.  But how do you start?  I’m sending out a Boot Camp for parents and teens prior to the start of school. Honestly, I still get thrilled to see apples and giant pencils hanging from the ceiling at Target.  After over 25 years in education, I think of this time of year as Happy New Year! Each week I’ll invite you to a new way of thinking, a small adjustment to make and an important conversation to have with your teen.  Between (or maybe before!) you go shopping for backpacks and new clothes, I hope that you’ll experience a very different year because of these four small exercises in Parent Boot Camp for School Success.  Interested in helping your son or daughter make a few New Year Commitments? Go on over to the Teen Page at and read the Boot Camp for Students.  Print it…lay it over their cereal bowl…promise a Starbucks drink if they’ll talk to you.  This can actually be a great year to try new experiments and learn what it can be like for kids who succeed at school.



The biggest temptation when our kids get older is to let them go…to think, “Hey, they’re big. They can read and write.  They can do school on their own.”  Or the flipside, “Oh no!  They’re growing up!  I don’t want to miss a moment!  I’m going to follow them everywhere on the first day of school!  They need me!  There are 8thgraders…or seniors…or mad professors ready to torment my kid!”

Let’s play Goldilocks…and find a nice, firm, calm middle ground.  See?  It’s great here!  Boot Camp is for all the parents of middle school, high school or even college kids who need to know their place, their role in their ever maturing, ever growing, hopefully adulting kid’s life.

Who are the THREE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE FOR YOUR TEEN? And more importantly, how do you connect but not overwhelm really busy people at school?  I taught middle school kids for years…and then loved it so much, I became a middle school principal!  Yes!  I really did! And it was amazing!  During my years in the classroom and in the front office, I saw what successful kids and their parents did to make it a better new year.

Here’s the INSIDE SCOOP for the key people to know:

ATTENDANCE CLERK:  This is one of the hardest jobs I can even imagine.  Their role is to make sure our kids are in class, the teachers are completing attendance, and that every absence is accounted for.  Think herding cats.  Then make the cats invisible.  They’re heroes.  This person will be your go to for communication about absences, tardies, late returns to school.  They can help counselors and administrators understand the family story so that there is a bit more information than meets the eye if your teen starts to tumble and misses class due to anxiety, family emergencies, etc.  Their call home is a GIFT to you!  They will let you know where your teen is…and that’s important!

Here are 3 quick ways to connect and encourage and keep the communication open and supportive:

  • Face to face introduction.   Take 5 minutes (NOT the first week of school!  Seriously, they don’t breathe, eat or emerge until after the first full week) AND a Starbucks drink to meet the attendance person for your teen. Each school is different, so use the website to find out who it is, where their desk is and their hours.  If there is history about attendance, let them know you want to be involved and informed, and appreciate every effort they make!


  • Confirm your direct phone number. You can do that with your face to face meeting (aka Starbucks in the office!).  What is the most direct way for them to connect with you?  Many schools have an automatic attendance line.  Be sure your number is the contact on that line.


  • After the first absence or tardy. Let your teen know you’re in tight with attendance. Not as a threat…but as a way to show that everyone is on the same team.  Be sure to connect with the attendance clerk.  Thank him/her for their information and confirm that your teen was sick.  (And PLEASE…as hard as it is…don’t excuse what’s not excusable.  If that was an old pattern, it’s time to clean that one up. Need help with attendance and making goals for a productive year?  Send me an email at:   I’m happy to work with you and your student right away to make a new start!)

COUNSELOR:  Another ESSENTIAL adult in your teen’s school life is a good counselor!  They are there to listen…to support…to advocate…to guide towards successful graduation.  YOU WANT THEM TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND!  If your teen struggled in the last school, or the last grade…MAKE AN APPOINTMENT BEFORE THE THIRD WEEK OF SCHOOL!  Be ready to share school history, family background, strengths and needs, what works and what has not worked yet.  AND BRING A STARBUCKS…OR DONUTS…OR A FRUIT BASKET!  Seriously, there is evidence that the counseling staff doesn’t have lunch or sit down for the first 21 days of school!!!

3 Ways to Connect:

  • Face to Face or Phone Call Within the First Two Weeks of School: This is NOT a “here’s what you need to do for my kid” talk.  This is an introduction to you as their parent and advocate.  This is a chance to find out the scope of their support and thank them for every way they do that work!  This is also a chance to let them know any key background information (ESPECIALLY if there has been a BIG EVENT in the past 6 months…death, divorce, busted for pot, break up, suicide or self injury).  This is the exact type of information a counselor wants! Together, you can create a plan. And by together I mean WITH YOUR TEEN IN THE MEETING!  Don’t leave them in the car.  This is THEIR education and THEIR advocate! Oh yeah…and bring them Starbucks!


  • Clarify the best way for you (and your teen) to make an appointment with them.   You never have to use the appointment process, but if and when you need it…it’s a huge relief to know already how to connect with them!  And if you do #1 (Face to Face!), you already have a relationship with them and there is an easier process to start supporting your teen quickly!


  • Learn how to read and understand the grades and attendance website! If you aren’t clear, ask to make an appointment to visit your teen’s page and walk through it. The counselor is a GREAT liaison between classroom and home.  Let him/her help you understand the grades and attendance program and information.


TEACHERS! This may be a huge “duh!”…but I can’t tell you how many parents with kids above Grade 6 just don’t connect with teachers. Parents, this is such a great chance to build a team in your teen’s favor!!  When teachers know parents are involved, caring, ready to support their kids…well, it’s like a very different school experience!

3 Ways to Connect:

  • Back to School Night*. Deep breath…honestly, this is a really good night to literally walk in your child’s shoes. Class by class, bell by bell, hall by hall…this is GOLD! in terms of supporting your teen through middle school and high school.  College? No…please don’t.  This is the one time I will say, “Mom…Dad…please let your college kid navigate their own school experience”.  BUT!  If you do these experiments during the middle and high school years…I promise you that they will be ready for college!  At least in terms of learning how to connect with important people at school AND how to initiate relationship and conversation prior to a problem!


  • Face to Face. BEFORE YOU GO TO BTSN*, get the run down from your teen about who their favorite teacher is (another adult in your kid’s corner??? CELEBRATE THEM!) and who they struggle with.  And ALL of the teachers are important to make contact with.  Face, name, handshake, appreciation and contact info.  Don’t let the third week of school go by with out this! And your teen’s favorite teacher? Let them know!  And then keep in contact.  Thank them for a good day or an important, inspiring conversation they have with your teen.


  • Grade pages and emails. Reality Check:  Teachers get up to 100 emails a day.  Day.  Many have contact with approximately 160 kids each day.  That’s a lot of algebra to assure you that emails are great if they are: BRIEF, CLEAR, CONCISE, BEGINNING AND ENDING WITH A POSITIVE.  If you have a complaint…make a call!  If you are emotional and upset?  PUT DOWN THE COMPUTER!  Take a breath.  Get the facts as much as you can from your teen, and then ask to make an appointment (phone, Facetime, face to face).  Ask questions.  Seek to understand.  Clarify and restate.  Get commitment.  THEN follow up with an email that states how glad you are that you met, what you understand the issues to be, and the commitment you both made.  AND PARENTS!  Take your teen to the meeting!  They need MODELS of communication, problem solving, commitment. THEY ARE THE STUDENT!!!


Good parenting is NOT about perfection.  It’s not about hovering or doing the problem solving and interactions that are difficult for them.  AND it’s not about letting kids drown while they work up the courage to email their teacher.  They need YOU to MODEL how to make community.  And YOU NEED to know there are adults in your teen’s day that are role models, support systems, cheerleaders and believers in their worth!

A Final Word to College Parents:  I once met a guy who was a professor at a local university.  I told him that it must be nice to not have to deal with parents in conflict over grades and attendance.  “Oh no…”, he said, “I have parents meeting me at the classroom door all the time.”

Dear parents…no.  Please let your college kid navigate the system WITH you.  What I mean is…use this guide as a support during your coaching session with them about who to contact, who to meet within the first month of school, and what are signs that they need to reach out to a bigger advocate because they aren’t feeling heard.

Parent Boot Camp is my gift to you…and mostly to your teen.  In the next four weeks, I’m giving you a way to make small shifts, deep connections and clear commitments for a new way of “doing school”.  You may find that Boot Camp actually confirms and affirms what you’ve been doing.  HOORAY!

If you notice old patterns of anxiety, perfectionism, lack of motivation, overwhelm and stress or relationship issues emerge during the first few weeks of school, please contact me at  I offer a free 15-minute consultation as well as therapy that includes goal setting, strategies for school and social anxiety, as well as consultation with parents about school issues.


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