Back to school: Set your child up for a successful school year

Mother and son doing homework
Photo credit: FatCamera/Getty Images

Whether you have a little one who’s about to start kindergarten, or a seasoned student headed to middle or high school, your support is a key component of a successful school year. With that in mind, we share a few tips on helping your student get ready for a successful school year.

Parental involvement has been proven to be a key factor in academic success. According to researchers, a student’s achievement in school is directly tied to whether the family encourages learning in the home, if they get involved at the school and community levels, and if they have high expectations for their child’s schooling and future. Income and social status are not reliable predictors of a student’s academic success, contrary to popular belief.

This means that you are your student’s foremost advocate. With your encouragement and support, accompanied by his or her hard work and dedication, you can help guarantee a school year filled with learning and achievement. Let’s look at some of the ways you can help.

Back to school: At home

You can do a lot right at home to create a supportive learning environment for your student.

  • Have a routine and stick with it. Where will the backpacks be set at night so they are packed and ready to grab in the morning? Set an early bedtime, and allow time for a healthy breakfast.
  • Make homework a priority and ensure it gets completed. Designate a time (after a snack, before outside play) for homework, and set up a quiet spot outfitted with the supplies your student needs.
  • Don’t overschedule extracurricular activities. Everyone needs some downtime, and kids can get just as stressed out as adults.
  • Limit screen time. Video games and television should be off limits before homework is completed and the kids have enjoyed some physical activity. Make sure they don’t use any electronics right before bed. The brain needs time to calm down.
  • Don’t allow electronics at dinner. As often as schedules permit, sit down together to have dinner and talk — no phones, tablets or tv invited.
  • Get them outside and moving every day. Exercise improves student performance in school, in large part due to increased focus and higher brain functioning.
  • Strongly encourage them to read. Being able to read at grade level by third grade is a strong indicator of future academic and professional success. If you have young non-readers, sit down, read with them, and discuss the book every night. It really is the key to lifelong learning.
  • Encourage responsibility. Students need to be taught to work independently and take responsibility for themselves in all aspects of their schooling and personal lives. Have clear rules and expectations, and hold kids accountable for sticking with them. Teach them to break assignments into small, manageable steps, but continue to monitor them.
  • Talk with your child — and listen, too.  Talking with others and hearing others speak helps kids learn to communicate effectively and even affects their ability to learn to read. Children who are not taught how to listen carefully become students who don’t pay attention or follow directions. As your child gets older, continue talking and listening every day. They may not act like it, but kids need and want to know that parents care about what’s going on in their lives.
  • Be positive in your conversations with them. Speak positively about school and learning. Tell kids you believe in them and their abilities. Model beneficial behaviors: Read in front of them, be curious about new things, and foster a growth mindset. Celebrate their successes and support them in their struggles.

Back to school: At school

  • Get to know your child’s teacher, and develop a relationship. Believe the teacher has your child’s best interests at heart and build a partnership. If you have a concern, address it with the teacher and work toward a solution together. Keep in regular contact with teachers regarding your child’s performance and ask specific questions, such as:
    • Is there a specific area my child is struggling in?
    • How can I help her improve?
    • What are his academic strengths and weaknesses?
    • Does my child seem happy in class?
    • Does she have friends?
  • Get involved and volunteer. You don’t have to be the room mom, but do take advantage of opportunities to volunteer in the library and in the classroom on special occasions. If you can’t be there during the school day, attend evening events and parent nights. This shows you are interested and invested in the school and your child’s learning.
  • Learn about extracurricular activities the school offers. Music? Sports? Clubs? After-school tutoring? Chances are there’s an activity your child would enjoy.
  • Attend back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences. Show your child that schooling is a priority for you as much as it is for him.
  • Request to meet with your child’s teacher anytime you have concerns or questions.
  • Seek help when necessary. If you are concerned about your child’s learning, find out about special services that may be available for her.
  • Find homework help if needed. If you have difficulty helping your child with homework or projects, search out help through after-school programs, libraries, community centers, and older teens in the neighborhood.

Your responsibility as a parent doesn’t end with buying school supplies and new clothes. Your student needs you to be involved every step of the way, regardless of grade. Here’s to a great school year!