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Helping My Teens Learn To Hone Their Essay Writing Skills

Helping Create Essay Writing Skills

During my daughter’s high school years, I could often be found sprawled out on the floor of her bedroom, sometimes until 2 a.m., listening to her formulate introductions, paragraphs and conclusions. While I helped my teen dissect words and sentences, I sometimes worried that I was being intrusive or overbearing. However, when this daughter, now a freshman in college, recently applied for a writing program, I realized the worth of those late nights in challenging her to explore herself through her writing.

My oldest son, now 17, only recently allowed me to enter his writing space. He often rebukes my questions, like, “I don’t fully understand what you mean in that sentence. Can you please provide more context?” But, I’ve noticed that he’s beginning to ask himself such questions without my prompting. And he’s realized he has a whole lot to say.

Through the countless hours of writing, editing and rewriting that I’ve spent with my two older kids, they’ve grown to understand that basic writing skills are a craft that needs ongoing practice. They understand that my quest is not an attempt to cheat the system or inflate grades; nor do I expect them to get straight A’s in English or become writers. I do, however, expect them to learn to express themselves in writing.

Basic Writing Skills And Self Expression

Hopefully, through understanding the power and importance of words, they will come to realize that texting is not a “true” form of writing. It’s tempting to participate in our sound-bite, screen-jumping society. But I want my kids to find fulfillment in the self-awareness that they gain from digging a little deeper to find the right words.

In coaching them through the writing process, they have also helped me grow tremendously as a writer. As a freelance writer, blogger and author, I continue to work on my own writing every day. I still get rejection letters. And though they lead me to question my ability as a writer (not to mention making me want to chuck my computer into a nearby lake), I’ve realized that writing is something I must do, even when others don’t validate my work.

So, I keep practicing, and encouraging my kids to practice. Helping my teens find the writer in themselves also motivates me to continue my own quest. I ask tough questions and then I witness them finding the patience, steadfastness and confidence that they need to develop their writing; their persistence reminds me that throwing my computer in the lake is probably not the best option.

Above all, helping my teens has helped me get to know my kids better—to see first hand how they think and feel about a variety of issues. I’ve learned about which characters they relate to and which ones irk them. I’ve learned what messages in books and poems impact them the most.

Through their writing, I have caught glimpses of their soul that I may not have been able to see otherwise. For this reason, above all the others, I will continue to helping my teens with their essays.

Julie Burton is a writer and blogger. You can read her work at or follow her on Twitter @unscriptedmom.

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