Here are some tips for parents who just want to help…The trick is knowing when, to intervene:

  1. Some students are self-motivated, driven and will knock out these essays with ease. Leave them alone! Other students (the majority) could use a little help. However, unless you have a harmonious parent/teenager relationship where you are accepted in a “teaching” role, I would advise only intervening if they ask, or if you feel they are falling way behind.
  2. Help them set up a simple schedule or deadlines, if they think that will help.
  3. Back off it they are tired, grumpy or tell you to go away.
  4. If they are having trouble getting started, help them brainstorm ideas. Initiate this exchange only when the setting is relaxed and the mood is right! Talk about the qualities/characteristics that define them. Talk about their main interests, hobbies, experiences, etc. Help them recall specific personal stories related to those topics, “Remember the time you…” Write down these ideas.
  5. Be a sounding board. Read their essay in progress, if they allow it. Give lots of encouragement. Tell them what parts you like and why. Gently, point out parts that are unclear or are not supported by examples. Remember how it feels to have your personal work critiqued or criticized!
  6. Help them understand that writing these essays is a process. Tell them it is normal to work on their essay for a while, then go do something else, then come back and work some more. Urge them to get feedback from teachers, friends, parents, etc. Let them know it is normal to write several versions to get it right.

7. Proofread their final version for errors, such as spelling, syntax, word choice, punctuation, typos. Simply flag them; they can make the corrections. Remember, you may be their only editor.

…if you choose to accept this mission, well, good luck!