6 Simple Tips to Help Your Teen with Goal Planning

5 min to read
A mother is helping her daughter keep track of her academic goals

As a Learning Coach, the beginning of a new year is an excellent time to have a conversation with your teen about their personal and academic goals. By doing so, you lay the groundwork for your student’s success in the coming year and into adulthood.   

Here are six easy ways to assist your teen in setting and achieving goals in the new year: 

1. Take a Step Back

As children reach their teens, parents should take a step back and allow their soon-to-be adults to pursue their own goals. Rather than driving your student’s next goal-planning session, as you might with an elementary school student, give them the chance to develop their own goals based on their unique interests and passions. Teens will be more invested in the process and more likely to achieve their goals. Moreover, the more they practice goal planning as teenagers, the better prepared they will be to set and achieve goals independently as adults.  

Remember, it’s more about the process and personal growth than their specific goals. It’s crucial that your student’s goals are their own. While the goals of a teenager may sometimes differ from the ones you as their parent and/or Learning Coach would recommend, your role now involves being there to provide support and offer encouragement for their ideas. If you’re worried about their focus, set a few parameters for their goal planning before they get started, such as creating four goals, two academic, one career-related, and one personal.

2. Invest Time in Self-Discovery and Evaluation

Encourage your teen to conduct a self-evaluation of their performance from the previous semester, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses. Use the questions found inside our goal planning worksheet to help your student get started. If your teen needs help, allow the questions to guide the discussion about their hopes for the upcoming semester and some good goals for teenagers that they might use as a template. 

Make sure your student also spends time on self-discovery, a valuable step in goal-setting for teens. Students can use what they discover from this brief self-exploration activity to get a clearer picture of their passions and interests, which they can then use to guide them in setting academic, personal, and career goals.  

An online student looking up good goals for teenagers.

3. Break Up Long-Term Goals Into Smaller Tasks

While most teenagers have some vague ideas of what they hope to accomplish in the upcoming year or how they envision their lives as adults, few have mastered the art of breaking down these ambitious aspirations into smaller, more workable goals for teenage students, and far too many find the process intimidating. Breaking up long-term goals for teens is the key to overcoming their fears of large projects and achieving long-term goals. If a teen is working toward a long-term goal, it can be helpful to break that goal down into a series of short-term goals so that they can make progress toward the larger goal without feeling overwhelmed. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment when they achieve each smaller task.  

To prepare them for long-term goal planning, it is helpful to have younger teens practice creating and achieving short-term goals. Short-term goals for teens tend to be most helpful when they can be accomplished in anywhere from a few days to roughly a month, so they experience the immediate achievement. Then, to assist them with their first few long-term goals, provide an example of how to break down a long-term goal into smaller tasks with specific deadlines and be available to answer questions and offer advice as they attempt the process with their own goals. By the time they’re in their late teens, your student will be a wizard at creating smaller goals out of long-term ones and ultimately achieving long-term goals. 

4. Write Down Goals

Writing down goals is strongly linked to success. In a study performed by researchers at Dominican University of California, participants who recorded their goals on a piece of paper were 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals. Recording their goals on paper also helps teens stay focused and develop more clarity about what they hope to achieve.   

Encourage your student to write down their goals and allow them some creative freedom in how they do so. Once their goals are on paper, don’t file them away or hide them. Instead, have your student post them on a mirror or in their home study space, where they’ll be regularly reminded of their goals without even realizing it. 

5. Create a Vision Board

Creating a vision board is an excellent way of reinforcing goals for teens (and adults).   

Simply put, students can create their own vision board using pieces from magazines, like words, photos, drawings, etc., that portray or symbolize their goals and serve as inspiration to achieve them.   

Have your student display their vision board on a bedroom wall, bulletin board, bathroom mirror, or any other location where they’ll see it frequently and be reminded of what they’re working toward. 

Two online students laughing.

6. Reward Achievement

Some may argue that achieving something is its own reward, but few would dispute that an extra incentive makes the process more fun. While rewards from parents or others are excellent motivators, those are typically no longer part of the equation post-high school graduation. As such, the most important lesson you can teach your student is how to reward themselves. By having the responsibility of choosing and giving themselves motivational rewards, teens will know how to rely on themselves and not depend on others to provide the motivation to succeed or persevere when goals get hard to reach.  

Ready to help your student refine and develop their goals even further? Dig into our guide for creating SMART goals for teens.  

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