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Teen/Parent Program


Comprehensive New Program at The Davidson Center for Teens and their Parents

This is an educational and counseling program that works for any student in any school. It is a very comprehensive preparation for college and ultimately adult life that starts ideally in 9th grade. It has two underpinnings based in navigating high school successfully with less stress for students and parents. First is enabling the student to understand and navigate their school environment: how to utilize it for their best purpose, and how to plan for their best future. Second is the skill building: academic, personal (mental, emotional and physical), and interpersonal. These are skills necessary for high school, college and adult life. Third is specific guidance through the college choice and application process necessary to send a teenager off to a “best fit” for college. The outcome is a student who has the training, skills, self-knowledge, experiences and confidence to succeed in college and beyond. By being informed and supported, a student can develop a good attitude that builds effective good habits and positive thinking.

This program is for the benefit of the student and his/her parents, ideally for all four years of high school and beyond. It is also possible that the additional outcome is less investment needed for college because of academic scholarships and/or a less expensive college that families wouldn’t have considered on their own. Bottom line: Investment now in your child gives him/her a better chance to have a happier more successful high school experience that enables a better college choice. It provides teenagers valuable knowledge at a very important time that sets them up to make the most of their abilities and opportunities.

If you want to learn more about this program continue…

Starting with High School

All parents want their child to be a good student, but what does it take to be a “good student” today? When asked, parents say they want their child to be a good student so they can get in to a good college and/or keep college expense to a minimum. Today, just as school environments have become very complex, so it is with the variety of skills that are required to navigate school successfully. Most parents think their child just needs “study skills” in order to get those high grades. However, much more is necessary for success in school because most students do not innately understand the process and skill set required to maximize their high school experience targeted for college and adult life. Sadly, due to large high schools, counselors are spread very thin and are not able to provide needed support.

Students first must understand their school environment, the requirements to succeed and why they want to succeed in the first place. Understanding the courses they will need in high school to reach their specific college goals is a beginning. Along the road from freshman to senior there are inevitably problems to be solved, strategies that must be put in place and adjustments to be made accurately. The game of school and college is very specific today. How can students play it successfully if they don’t understand the rules? Many teenagers are more concerned with living in the moment and how they stack up against their friends because they are trying to understand themselves. They are very vulnerable to peer pressure that frequently is not ideal for them. Most teens don’t knowledgeably plan ahead and set goals, and if they do it is quite a challenge to do on their own. Their parents may try to help them but because they don’t know the complexities of school environments and the specifics of getting into college, all too often their children do not get the opportunity to reach their potential. In today’s school environment a child’s future can be seriously compromised.

Students benefit from a professional adult relationship they can trust to help them go through the process of high school and transition to college that sets them up to thrive as adults. This person is a professionally trained and experienced teacher/counselor. Most teenagers don’t want their parent(s) to be their teacher or counselor; they want them to be their parent(s). A positive term that is user friendly to most teens today would be mentor, rather than teacher or counselor, so we will use this term going forward. Importantly, a child’s mentor is also an extremely helpful guide to parents because they are not specialists in school environments or learning, and they are not college counselors.

Now We Can Talk About Study Skills

Now comes the study skills part, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. As the mentor gets to understand a child and where problems/challenges lie, there are usually reasons for poor grades, or grades that could be better. It may look like lack of study skills but the cause is often something else. For example, a child may have a mild learning disability such as slow processing or working memory. Students can become anxious in school for any number of reasons and this can be addressed successfully as well. Regardless of the reason, the acquisition of effective study skills usually requires some supervised training and it takes time for good habits to become established. Coaching over time is critical because catching the mistakes are the opportunities to learn. This effective use of all study skills can take longer for some students than others. For example, the development of the frontal lobe of the brain where executive function develops can run 3 to 5 years behind for some children. This is the reason that Johnny can’t keep his life and stuff organized because he doesn’t have the brain circuitry yet to do it! The understanding of brain science, child development and learning challenges have all advanced tremendously over the past several decades. It is necessary to have an understanding of these areas in order for the teaching of study skills to be successful! Finally, sometimes it is revealed that a student needs the additional support of a specialist such as a counseling psychologist, a subject specific tutor or a referral for educational testing. The mentor knows good referrals and monitors the progress of the student.

So what exactly are study skills anyway? Many people think of taking notes, but there is a very specific way to take notes that helps one remember information. Then there is how to annotate reading, a system for organizing materials, how to learn material for a test effectively, memorizing skills, time management, goal setting, and people skills (how to work with teachers and other students), to name a few. Managing anxiety and lack of motivation can be the overlying cause to all sorts of other problems that are often misinterpreted as lack of study skills. This brings us back to understanding the process of the job of school toward the desired result. Achievement is not about the grades; it is about the CORRECT PROCESS. If personal and academic process is effective, better grades just happen with much less stress. Finally, students need to understand mindfulness and the effect of their thoughts on their outcomes. For example, did you know that anxiety causes negative thoughts? It is possible to teach a person to manage their thoughts and emotions and therefore their outcomes. Learning these mental skills not only enable more success in school but a happier life going forward.

The College Counseling Component

Finally, there’s the whole project of specific college counseling that usually becomes very focused by the middle of junior year. Finding the right fit for a student and a family is a process in itself. The more competitive a college is to get into, the more effort, support and knowledge it will take to navigate the process. For athletes, students with learning challenges, students with particular financial need, or a host of other reasons, working with a college counselor is especially worthwhile. If your child’s mentor is also their (credentialed) college counselor, it is a tremendous advantage because they thoroughly know the child. For example, for some students a small private college may be a better fit and cheaper than a state school. Many private colleges know they compete with state systems, and will offer scholarships to attractive students. This is where a good college counselor can save a family a significant amount of money. If parents have this in mind from when their child is in middle school, with the focus on good process (rather than just pressure for grades), students and parents can each have better options.

The Big Picture and Final Analysis

The big picture is this: Students need to learn and experience why they’re in school and why it is worthwhile to make more of an effort than the minimum state requirement. Confidence and self-esteem come from effort, perseverance and over coming difficulty. When teens have a better understanding of themselves and who they can count on to help them along the way, it puts peer pressure in perspective. Understanding their environment for what it is and where they can have control is a life skill. If your child can acquire self-knowledge from well-directed effort, personal skills from good guidance, and executive skills from effective training, they will be much more set up for success in college and beyond. It will provide them the necessary foundation and framework for the rest of their life.

Who is this Mentor at The Davidson Center?

For over 30 years, Jean Bonnyman has had an extensive range of experience as an educator and counselor. She holds three degrees from the University of Virginia in education, sport psychology, and counseling. For the past decade, she has been a college counselor, learning specialist and sport psychology coach at Darlington School in Rome, GA. Because Darlington is a college preparatory, day, and boarding school for a very diverse student body, Jean has worked with a broad range of students in grades 9-12. Jean also helped her students with the entire college application and decision process. She is certified as an Independent Educational Consultant and a member of the National Association for College Counseling. She has served as a sport psychology coach for equestrians, golfers, runners, and tennis players. Jean also draws on the experience of parenting her own children, two of whom graduated from Princeton University. Before working at Darlington, Jean consulted privately with students and their families, as well as athletes and coaches.

If you would like to meet with Jean Bonnyman for an informational interview, call The Davidson Center at 704-892-5977