How to help your teenagers with school and university decision making, even when you’re short on time.

This was first published on , an online repository of advice, news and ideas for working parents. Follow the link to see it in its full original glory with pictures and everything!

Compromise. Trade off. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Burning the candle at both ends. Any way you phrase it, the work-life balance is hard and getting harder and despite more companies embracing flexible working, there’s always the uncertainty that not being in the office is giving your co-workers a professional advantage over you. On paper, we’re around the middle of the pack when it comes to working hours but that doesn’t take into account the £31.5 BILLION we give our employers in unpaid overtime, working through lunch, staying late and doing work at home. As parents the worst aspect of this is the constant juggling act of prioritisation, do you want to upset your boss or alienate your kids? What that means in real terms for many of us is accepting the week is a write-off and ploughing your efforts into being ‘fun’ at the weekend. The knock-on effect is too often that school, homework, the big questions around university and careers are put on the back-burner as that’s not a ‘fun’ weekend thing to discuss.

With that in mind I’ve put together a few simple things you can do to help your teen with their schooling that will not be too time-onerous on you but will hopefully pay dividends for them.

  • Encourage them to think as much and as early as possible about their futures. Too often schools are linear in their thinking and don’t always join the academic and the career side of things. By encouraging them to think about the two areas as being linked, it will help give a purpose to their learning, create a potential path, which in turn will allow them to seek out useful work experience that will benefit either an apprenticeship or university application. Every decision they make from GCSE options onwards has a knock-on effect, if they don’t know where they’re headed encourage them not to make choices that’ll close off avenues.
  • Use your network. If you’re spending all that time at work try and get something back from it other than salary. Use your network both professional and personal to help your child secure internships and work experiences that will help clarify where they might want to be. Increasingly, the extra curricular activities and a demonstrable, long-standing commitment to an area, as detailed in a personal statement, can make the difference between success and failure in gaining a place at top flight universities. Be shameless on their behalf.
  • Let them think as widely as possible about their options. There remains a certain snobbery that university is the silver bullet for future prospects and certainly it’s true for many professions that it’s enormously helpful, but for just as many it’s not a necessity. Apprenticeships and Apprentice Degrees offer training, pay, a strong likelihood of employment and in the case of Apprentice Degrees, a Bachelors or Masters qualification without the usurious debt of conventional university study. Encourage them to think of their options holistically.
  • Self-reliance. Many parents I know become frustrated by their children’s attempts to finish projects/coursework/homework and rather than help them when asked, try and finish it at a time that is more convenient for them, usually after their child has gone to bed. When they ask for help, more often than not they are asking for your time and attention. It’s not ‘fun’ but setting aside some time at the weekend for these kinds of activities can be as rewarding as going to the cinema and won’t deprive them of the pride of having worked hard at something and found the solutions themselves (even if they may not thank you straight away!).
  • Encourage better time keeping. We all know teenagers have a loose understanding of time keeping but it is an essential skill for both study and life; indeed, the whole article is predicated on the idea that working and parenting is an horological nightmare. By having set times for them to do work you can potentially be of more use than when they catch you as you’re dashing out the door. This gives you the chance to fulfil your commitment to them and offers them a valuable lesson about routine and structure when it comes to their studies.


Is Your School Lying To You? By Edd Williams, Ortus Press, 31st January 2018, £11.99

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