For most LDS teenagers, seminary starts ‘early morning’. Some teenagers I know will tell you that it’s actually spelled ‘early MOURNING seminary’.
I understand their spelling. I’ve been an early morning seminary student myself and have taught seminary as well.
So, what can parents do to help their early morning/mourning seminary students have a successful year? I talked to several parents and seminary teachers. Here is their advice.
1. Make sure they get enough sleep.
This was the first comment from everyone. Get your seminary students into bed early enough that it won’t be excruciating when the alarm goes off.
That is always easier said than done.
Did you know that teenagers need even more sleep than their younger siblings! Studies show teenagers need at least 9 ½ hours of sleep a night but teenagers average only 7 ½ hours. (That would be equivalent to adults trying to function long-term on 5 hours of sleep.)
That means if they have to get up at 5:30 a.m. to make a 6 a.m. seminary class, they should be in bed with the lights out by 8:00.
HA! Not going to happen.
But if you let them stay up until 10 p.m. you are depriving their bodies of much needed rest so hit a compromise. Nine p.m. is reasonable.
Even with a regular bedtime, one of our teenagers has a difficult time falling asleep. Though he stresses this ‘insomnia’ (which makes it worse,) this is actually normal for teenagers.
There are things you can do to help your teenager fall asleep easier at night.
-Do not let them exercise after 7 p.m. This allows the adrenalin to dissipate from their bodies.
-Do not let them drink or eat anything with sugar or caffeine after 7 p.m.
-Have an established bedtime routine that is calming. Family scripture study is a good, calming routine.
-Discourage going to sleep listening to music. Even soothing music causes the mind to think about patterns, making it more active.
2. Get up early with them.Sounds silly or useless? If you get up at the same time they do, if you get yourself dressed and ready to walk out the door at the same time they do--even if you go no where--you give them a great visual reminder that it can be done. If you get up and get ready at the same time they do, you give them a great physical reminder of your support and love for them. They will appreciate it more than you will know.
3. Establish rewards and consequences for tardiness or absences.Some teenagers feel that since seminary doesn’t count as a ‘real’ class, it doesn’t matter if they are tardy or absent. Actually, it does matter. Seminary teachers must tally up absences and add together tardies and deduct this from their attendance. If they miss more than 80 percent of their seminary classes they will not pass. While not passing seminary may not keep them out of the most colleges, it could cause them trouble getting into a Church-owned institution.
Not that college matters to a teenager who is glued to the mattress at 6:15 in the morning but tardies and absences can be stressful for the entire family. You don't want to spend the next 180 days arguing with them to get up.
So, before seminary starts, lay out rewards and consequences for seminary attendance. Will they set their own alarm or will you wake them up? If they miss a day, will they lose a privilege; if so, what? If they are on time each morning, what will they gain? Be sure to ask your teenager what they think is agreeable but remember, in the end you are still the parent and they are still the teenager. Remember, too, that even the Lord clearly establishes rewards and consequences for us. Follow His pattern.