Even in high school, when many parents consider their students “almost” grown-up, parent involvement is absolutely vital. I’ve also noticed that most parents want to help their children but often don’t know exactly what to do or how they should lend a hand.
If you’re in that boat, here are a few ways you can help your kids start the school year on the right foot:
Get to Know Mr. Brown
…or Ms. Bunting… or whomever your kids’ teachers are. Meet them in person as soon as you can. If you can’t, send a friendly email, or give them a call. And then make yourself available for contact—and let the teacher know you’re there to work with them for the betterment of your child.
Have a Routine
Create a structure for before-school and after-school time so that your kids know what to expect and when they are expected to do things. It might be tough at first, especially if your kids aren’t used to completing homework before TV time or fill-in-the-blank here. Stick by the routine and keep your expectations—the routine will soon become second-nature if you do.
Read, Read, Read
So often, we use reading as a punishment, rather than an activity that is exciting and life-enriching. Readers have larger vocabularies and overwhelmingly do much better academically than their non-reading peers. Foster a literacy-rich home by reading yourself—talk about the books you’re reading casually with your kids and show them that you enjoy it. Read with them at a designated time every night (make sure it’s in your routine!). Take them to the library and bookstore and let them choose books that are interesting and appropriate for them. Introduce them to new books and help them expand what they’re used to and comfortable with.
Ask the Right Questions
Make it a point to ask your children about school daily: demonstrate that you’re invested in their academics. Often conversation can get stuck at the What-Did-You-Do-Today?-Nothin’ stage. Instead, ask specific questions: What was for lunch? How’s the unit on Medieval England going? What’s the most interesting thing you learned today?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, especially when it comes to military life. If there’s an impending deployment or PCS, we often feel frazzled and can overlook even the most obvious things. Kids feel that stress and uncertainty too. And they need your help. If your child seems withdrawn or has changed significantly, it might not just be moodiness. And be sure to have a conversation with your children’s teachers too if something tough—like a deployment—is coming up. They can be another support for your child. But they can only do that if they know what’s going on.
Live Your Beliefs
Talk about the tough stuff. Talk about cheating. About bullying. About integrity. About honesty. About hard work. Talk about what you expect from them—even when you’re not around. Listen to their questions and concerns. Tell them when you’re proud of them making hard or unpopular decisions because they were the right, decent ones. And if a teacher or coach calls you with concerns, be concerned, too—don’t brush it off.
Teach Organizational Skills
As adults, organization often feels like second nature. But for most children, it’s a learned skill (and it helps strengthen critical thinking and problem solving skills, too!). Help your children set up age-appropriate organizational systems in their room and study areas. Give them the resources and tools to be able to create to-do lists and calendars for themselves. It will pay off quickly!
Whether it’s setting up a daily routine or getting to know your child’s teacher, there are many small steps you can take that will make a huge impact on their experience in school. If you swear by a particular trick or tip for working with your children, please leave it in the comments below!
Jo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook and say hi!