Helping Kids Succeed in Schools
Parents want their children to be successful and happy at school. Regardless of your own level of education, you can help your kids succeed in school by becoming involved, encouraging them, helping them develop good habits, and keeping them healthy.
- Form positive relationships with your child’s teacher(s). Attend Back to School Night, send an email or voicemail to introduce yourself, and don’t hesitate to contact a teacher if you have a question or concern. Most teachers are busy, but they do want to communicate with parents. If they don’t respond right away, try again. Consider joining a parent organization or volunteer to chaperone a field trip, dance, or other school event. Being involved will show your kids that you think school is important.
- Set regular routines for completing homework. Students are most successful when they have a regular time and place to do their homework. Help your student find a quiet, comfortable place to work. Let your child know that you expect him or her to finish homework before going online or hanging out with friends. If you work in the afternoon, your child may be able to study in the school or public library or in the school tutoring center.
- Practice healthy habits. No one can learn when they aren’t feeling well. Children and teens need plenty of sleep and a healthy breakfast and lunch to help them concentrate. Teach kids to avoid sugar and soda, and encourage them to drink lots of water.
- Aim for perfect attendance. It is often difficult to catch up after an absence, so make every effort not to schedule appointments or vacations during the school day/week. (Of course, if your child has a contagious cold or flu, he or she should stay at home!)
- Nurture and monitor your child’s friendships. Developing friendships is an important part of school for kids of all ages. In adolescence, these relationships often become even more central to students’ lives. Many young people need help learning how to meet new friends, how to deal with conflict, and how to develop healthy, positive relationships. Encourage your child to invite a new friend for a visit when you can be home to meet him or her. Teach your child to use his or her words when there is a conflict and to listen to the other person’s side. Keep an open ear – does your child’s friends accept your child for who he or she is? does your child feel left out? is your child experiencing negative peer pressure or bullying?
- Encourage extracurricular activities. Taking part in after school and community programs can provide good role models, and allows young people to explore their interests, develop new skills, and feel connected with others. Help your kids select appropriate activities, such as participating in school sports, the school play, or a club, or volunteering in the community. Remember that future employers and colleges and universities prefer candidates who are well-rounded and involved in the community.
- Use available resources when needed. Most kids will struggle at some point during their academic lives. Ask the school and other parents for support. Many schools have a free tutoring program and they can refer you to many other services.
- Be an advocate. Make sure that you are familiar with the school’s graduation requirements as well as prerequisites for entrance to institutions of higher learning and advocate for your child to be enrolled in the appropriate classes. Pay attention to your child’s experience in the classroom. Sometimes there is a mismatch between student and teacher and it is appropriate to advocate for a change. Finally, if your child is struggling with a health issue, a potential learning disability, or another situation that is not being handled by the child’s teacher or school, advocate to get your child more resources.
- Be gentle with yourself and your kids. Unfortunately, grades and school can often be a source of conflict between parents and kids. When kids struggle, everyone can feel frustrated and angry. Try to create space for open communication. Focus on the positive things you can do to help your kids be more successful. Spend time talking about topics not related to school.
- Believe in your kids. If you consistently show your kids that you care about school and that you are proud of everything they are learning, they will have a positive attitude about school. While it is not helpful to set unrealistically high expectations, low expectations can be equally harmful. Every child learns in a different way and all children can succeed if they are encouraged to do their best and feel good about themselves in school.
- Marin County Office of Education
- The Novato Youth Center
- Youth Education and Development Program at Canal Alliance
- Bridge the Gap Tutoring (in Marin City)
- Youth Leadership Institute
- Parent Education Network
- Matrix (serving families with children with special needs)