our everyday life

Handwriting Help for Teens

by Erica Loop, studioD

Although the constant use of computers, touch screens and cell buttons may mislead your teen into thinking that she never needs to use her hands to write with, help her to understand that her digits aren't just for typing or texting. If your teen's handwriting looks more like your toddler's scribbles than the work of a middle or high school student, turn her sloppy penmanship around by providing the help that she clearly needs.

Behavior Issues

Before jumping to the conclusion that your teen's super-messy handwriting is a result of his laziness or lack of detail, rule out an actual issue such as a behavioral problem. According to the pediatric professionals at the KidsHealth website, kids who have disorders such as ADD or ADHD often find it challenging to sit still long enough to focus on a specific task such as handwriting. Additionally, kids with ADHD may struggle to engage in complex tasks that involve cognitive and motor functions -- such as handwriting -- simultaneously. If you are noticing that your teen can't concentrate long enough to hand-write his assignments, ask an expert for advice or set up an evaluation with his pediatrician.

Grip and Hold

While it might seem like a no-brainer that by the time your teen reaches middle or high school she knows how to hold a pencil, sometimes even older kids can get sloppy. The proper pen or pencil hold, according to the KidsHealth website, includes placing the writing utensil at the base of her thumb, holding it steady in between her thumb, index and middle fingers. Watch your teen while she is writing to make sure that she is staying steady with this type of grip. Correct her if necessary when she relaxes her hold or starts to get messy.

Practice Slow Writing

Between after-school soccer practice, band rehearsal, reading a 300 page novel for English lit, a part-time job at the local cineplex and hanging out with friends, your teen may feel like he has to rush through everything -- including his handwriting. Some kids with sloppy handwriting have problems slowing down enough to keep the letters neat and tidy looking. Encourage your teen to take a breath and slow down while he is writing. Remind him that unlike typing or texting, handwriting isn't a task that he is meant to do in an uber-quick way.

Entertaining Activities

Practicing writing the same letters over and over again is a less than thrilling prospect for most teens. If your adolescent balks at the idea of simply sitting down and going over his handwriting for a set period of time, try a more entertaining type of activity to engage his playful side. While your teen most likely won't want to try "little kid" activities such as follow the leader writing or tracing what mom draws, he may enjoy complex fine motor games that require him to coordinate finger motions and eye-hand movements. For example, young teens may enjoy building with Legos -- look for the mature sets, such as famous architectural structures -- or a game such as Jenga. These entertaining activities can help build the fine motor skills that are necessary to adequately control a pen or pencil while handwriting.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images