By Jodi Foxx, Director of College Counseling, Charlotte Christian School
It seems to happen at every turn during the school year – students get evaluated on their performance in any number of activities. What grade did you make on the test? Did you make the team? Did you get the role in the play? And, for this generation, how many likes did you get on your social media post? The feedback and evaluations seem to be everywhere.
All this evaluation serves a purpose, of course. Grades provide benchmarks to measure whether or not learning is happening. Feedback gives students information about how they can improve and grow. Students come to recognize their areas of giftedness, which is important to understand as they discern God’s plans for their lives. We all need feedback.
But for many students, there’s an underlying question that goes along with every bit of evaluation they receive: Am I good enough?
They sometimes take feedback in one area and apply it to every area of their lives. A low score on one science test can translate into “I’m not smart.” Teens are in a season of life when they’re seeking to understand their worth as a person, and one negative bit of feedback can sometimes take on too much meaning in that quest to feel valuable.
As seniors begin the college application process and underclassmen prepare for upcoming standardized tests, there are new opportunities for students to wonder if they’re good enough. You might have a teenager in your house currently in that frame of mind.
Here are some tips to help parents support a teen who is not so sure they measure up:
1. Talk to your child.
Offer praise for effort and for growth in areas of difficulty. Share your observations about the strengths you see in your child. Say “I love you.” This can be done in casual moments of conversation or even through something as simple as a text message or a sticky note left in a strategic location. Reinforce your child’s value often and in a variety of ways. Don’t be subtle on this. Come right out and say it!
2. Listen to your child.
No technology. No distracted focus. Just listen. If you’d like some help in getting the conversation started, the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish is a classic resource.
3. Spend time with your child.
What better way to communicate someone’s value than to go out of your way to spend time together? Make time for a daddy-daughter or mother-son date. See a movie together. Go bowling. Have a family game night. I know teens are busy and they like to spend time with their friends, but that doesn’t change the fact that time still equals love – even for an increasingly independent teen.
4. Volunteer together.
CCS students are encouraged to complete service hours; why not do this together as a family? If you’re not sure where to go, organizations like Bright Blessings, Crisis Assistance Ministry or Project 658 would welcome a family volunteering together. We all feel valuable when we take time to help others.
5. Attend church together.
There’s more to life than the growing pains of adolescence, and the messages presented at church help all of us to take that long view in our lives. Being reminded of our value as a child of God is the best medicine for a teen that wonders if they’re good enough.
Even our most successful teens, the ones who seem to have the Midas touch, need help in understanding their value. We ALL have shortcomings, and we ALL wonder if we measure up. Parenting intentionally through the ups and downs of adolescence will yield dividends for years to come.
Mrs. Jodi Foxx has been the director of college counseling for the upper school at Charlotte Christian School for 24 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Geneseo and a master’s degree in counselor education from SUNY Brockport. She has been named the Guidance Professional of the Year Award by the North American Coalition of Christian Admissions Professionals (NACCAP). Fun fact, Jodi and her husband completed visiting all 50 states this summer!
Charlotte Christian School
7301 Sardis Road
Charlotte, NC 28270