Mother and daughter on the couch planning for the second semester and tutoring with Open Door Education in Concord and Acton MA

Kickstart the Second Semester

It’s the start of second semester, a great time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t last semester. It’s also an opportunity for healthy dialogue on how all members of the family feel they can work better moving forward, individually and as a team.


Before sitting down for a family discussion, try gathering your thoughts in writing. You’ll want to take full advantage of all-too-limited family talk time. Suggest that your teens do the same. They too will see the benefits of being “prepared for a meeting.”


Once in the conversation, consider opening the dialogue with your own positive reflections. Teens have lots of negative self-talk—as do many adults—and by focusing on the positive first, you’ll give them permission to compliment themselves. Even if it’s just a reduced number of days with forgotten gym bags or band instruments, there will have been growth and success that can be celebrated.


Finally, model good listening. Ask mirror questions like, “So am I right in hearing that you feel …?” Everyone hungers to be heard and understood.


Here are some ideas for topics of conversation:

Habits. What good habits worked over the past months? What not-so-good habits hindered success?

Goals. What are some reasonable  goals for the next few months? Agree on some and write them down, too.

Regular family time. Can the family resolve to find a good time each day to connect in a meaningful way?

Support networks. Whose names belong on a list of those any member of the family can turn to for help when needed?

Not-the-911 plan. Agree on ways to head off emergencies before they occur. Work on material or projects with a tutor ahead of time, not at the 11th hour: Draft papers early to review for revision, review material from last semester that isn’t fully mastered, preview material that’s coming up—all work that can be done with a teacher or tutor.

Identify collaborators. Working together is motivational. Just like a gym buddy helps get you to the weight machines, a study partner or group helps students stick to their study plan, and challenge one another to understand the material better.

Planners. Regular planners are helpful, but specialized academic ones are better. Open Door tutors can help identify organizational strategies to suit individual students.

Screen time. How often and at what times of day can every member of the family turn off all devices?

Healthy foods or activities. Create a list, or schedule them on the family calendar and individual planners.

Intentions. Here is another opportunity to write things down. Later in the semester, the family can regroup to review and celebrate more successes!


Voltaire is credited with the aphorism: “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Who is to say he didn’t take it from a family conversation?