How can I get my younger teenager to study?

by | Jun 27, 2024 | Teen support

I get asked this question quite regularly and it actually makes me quite sad! The parent is usually asking me through frustration and a touch of panic. They’re wondering why they cannot get their younger teenager to study.

To understand what the parent means by “study”, I ask them a bit more about what they mean. The word ‘study’ to me means sitting down to learn material in preparation for exams. I want to make sure that we are talking about the same thing. Often, it means doing homework or “doing two hours of homework/studying per night.

So, why does it make me sad? Well, I get the sense that the parent is trying to gear the student up for strong Junior Cert results – with an eye for getting lots of points from the Leaving Cert. Even though the teen is still years away from those exams. I prefer younger teenagers (aged 13 – 16) to actually have a life!

They have too much going on at this stage to be stuck in their books – unless, of course, it gives them joy. We put too much pressure on our young people to be study robots, to have the perfect grades to get the perfect career.

But that doesn’t normally happen. We all know, as parents, that life is messy! Careers are messy. That there is no such thing as perfection.


Teenage Development

The reason why there should be less emphasis on study at this stage, I believe, is that your child is going through an enormous transformation. Their bodies are growing fast and their brains are transitioning from child to adult. New functions from dormant organs are beginning to kick in with puberty and therefore, hormones are changing how they function. Also, the transition from primary to secondary school is difficult as the ground rules for relating to their friends change.

On top of all of this, some parent are now saying to them they have to study. A 13 year old child doesn’t know how to study. And possibly gets scared by the word.


So, what study should a younger teenager do?

Let’s break out the terminology first. Homework is the set of tasks teachers set for their pupils every day or week. Study is learning and revising for exams.

It would be brilliant if younger teenagers in First and Second years of secondary school did all of their homework all of the time. And could get to grips with all of the topics of each subject as they go along. It doesn’t matter if that takes 1/2 hour or 1 1/2 hours. Although, I wouldn’t let it go much beyond that. And I would definitely restrict phone use while they are doing it to avoid distractions.

And yes, in the run up to exams, be it a simple class exam, end-of-term exams or state exams, they study. That is they should prepare for each exam by doing appropriate revision.

But know that that is not always going to happen. As your teenager develops, so will their abilities – but maybe not in a linear direction.

They may have been top of the class in primary school but now they are just average. Or the most popular, or anything else. That hurts! A learning difficulty may emerge or an existing one is compounded by the new way of learning in secondary school.


What should the focus be?

Let’s be honest, secondary schools suit the more academic student and less so the creative or practical students. And so, you may have to support your teenager, if not thrive then to survive through the educational system.

And remember, if you or your teenager run into difficulty, you are not alone. Parents all over the country have similar problems so reach out to friends or professionals to help you or your teen. Also, you can access great resources at A Lust for Life for both parents and teenagers.

For the younger teen, forget about their Leaving Cert results and future career. Allow them to be the young teenager that they are, to cope with the major changes in their lives. Give them space to learn how to relate to others in their changing world. Help them to learn other life skills, like cooking, cleaning or using the washing machine. Which also relieves some of the household burden off the parents.

I know that you will want them to have a solid educational base for the future – and that’s the correct view to have. But ease off on the pressure, for now.

Chat soon,

Helen xx

About Me

Find out more about me here and my careers coaching programme for teenagers here.


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