5 Tips to Help Your Child Succeed in School

By now most kids are in school. And let's face it, school is tough on kids. Not only do they have to deal with the loss of the freedom of summer, snacking at all hours, late nights, and TV, they also must deal with assignments, teachers, structure, and classmates. So while many parents are breathing a sigh of relief for that break from "I'm BOOOOOORED!", it's important to remember you are your child's biggest supporter and you play a big role in their school success. Here are five tips to help your child succeed in school:

1. Get Involved
     There is a reason this is #1 on the pointers. Getting involved in your child's education is important. It shows that their education is important to you, making it more important in your child's mind. Lots of kids in elementary school like to see their parents at the school, whether it's volunteering for a holiday party or chaperoning a field trip. The PTA/PTO is a great way to have a say in the school, and to build the bridge between parents and teachers. High schoolers may prefer their parents take a more behind-the-scenes approach to being involved. Try joining a booster club or volunteer snacks for extracurricular activities. Follow your child's lead on how much involvement they want from you.
     Curriculum nights, parent-teacher conferences, IEPs, or individual meetings with the school are of utmost importance. Be certain you make the time to attend these meetings! Also, keep in mind that parents (or guardians) can request meetings with teachers, principals, school counselors, or other school staff any time during the school year to discuss concerns.

2. Know The School And Its Expectations/Policies
     It's important you know about your child's school. Learn the layout of the school so you know the location of events your child talks about, and so you can ask questions. Check out the school website or social media page. Information is posted here on a regular basis. Not only will the website have staff information, calendar of events, and policies, it will have updates and changes to the schedule.
     It's also important to know the expectations and policies in your school. This can often be found on the website, as well as in the student handbook. Be sure to review the policies and to note any changes in them. If you have questions, ask the principal or school counselor to explain to you. If your child gets into trouble, the school will need to follow these policies. If your child is having difficulties, you can follow the reporting protocol and know what to expect from the school as a response.

3. Attendance Is Important, And So Is Being Ready To Learn
     Attendance is important for a good education. Plus, it's the law and you, as parent/guardian, are responsible for your child's attendance. Know the attendance policy, and whether you need doctor notes, etc., if your child is missing school. It's important for your child to arrive at school on time and ready to learn. You can help  your child be ready to learn by setting a schedule - getting them to bed at an early time so they get plenty of sleep, keeping a consistent bedtime/wake schedule (of course, there are times you need to be flexible about this), and making sure they have nutritious foods to eat. Try to keep breakfast foods high in fiber, whole grains, and protein - and low in sugar content. It isn't always an easy task but it will help with energy levels and concentration in school.

4. Support Homework Expectations And Teach Study Skills
     Some schools are steering away from homework while others seem to "pile it on." Whatever the direction your school or teacher has taken, it is important to support it. Homework is meant to extend the learning your child does in the classroom, and to apply it to "real life" situations at home. It also helps build important study skills which can be translated into their jobs later in life.
     Support homework with an effective study environment. Make sure there is enough light, comfortable, and few distractions (like TVs). It's also important to have the supplies handy in the homework area, such as sharpened pencils or crayons.
     Be near your child so you can answer questions or offer support and interpretation on instructions. Resist the urge to do it for them or to simply give them the answer. Real life doesn't always give us the correct answer; sometimes we make mistakes, get frustrated, and have to try over. Help your child navigate these feelings and behaviors with support, care, concern, and help - but do not do it for them. Help your child learn to study for tests by reminding them to bring home their study materials, help them break down the material into smaller bits so they don't feel overwhelmed, teach mnemonics, and quiz them.

5. Make Time To Talk About School
     This goes along with getting involved. When you set time aside to talk with your child about school, it lets the child know you are interested and invested in their academic success, which, in turn, gets them excited and invested in their success.
     Use good communication skills when speaking with your child. Make eye contact, focus on them (no major multi-tasking), listen and paraphrase, and ask open-ended questions (questions that can't simply be answered with "yes" or "no"). Try chatting during meal times, during car rides (keep your eyes on the road though!), while preparing meals, walking the dog, before bed, or while you wait in line at the grocery store.

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