Only a few generations ago, moms talked about school like it was another planet, their only bridge to it being the messages brought back by their kids. “Who are your teachers? Is the principal nice? You know the way to remember how to spell ‘principal’ is that she is your PAL!”
Today, parents are not only welcomed into schools but are also given opportunities to shape policy and curricula. Yet many don’t appreciate how what they do at home makes a world of difference when their little ones head to school.
Active Parenting’s Educational Benefits
If you haven’t already, it’s time to break down the silos between home and classroom life — the two worlds are intricately intertwined. For instance, kids whose parents are engaged with their learning to have fewer absences than their peers. And a research study that followed 200 boys in the Middle East found that those with involved parents earned more impressive grades.
Of course, this doesn’t give moms carte blanche to hover. Parents who cut their middle schoolers’ food or argue with teachers about grades don’t produce shrewd, adaptable young adults. Instead, they foster grown babies who can’t do laundry, aren’t able to accept responsibility, and rely on others to keep them organized.
Every mom’s goal, therefore, should be to concentrate on making a positive impact without impeding natural cognitive and social development. With another school year approaching, now is the time to take steps that will set your kids up for educational achievement.
1. Ease into back-to-school transitions
Even children who adore school can experience tension in August and September. Be understanding, and help them get back into a routine before the big day. For example, give elementary-age kiddos a countdown so they feel less thrust into the change. When school starts, listen to what they say and encourage them to share their feelings.
Older students may be reluctant to talk about their experiences, but it’s important that they know they can talk to you about anything, even bad grades. State your confidence in their abilities, but try not to set unrealistic expectations that they probably can’t meet without excessive stress.
2. Get into a reading habit
Remember all the reading you were assigned in school? Your child will get similar levels of homework, so encourage a love of the endeavor. A study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics showed that parents who read with their toddlers adopted more caring parenting methods later, showcasing the bond that comes from sharing stories and building brainpower.
Even if your kids can sound out sentences on their own, consider reading aloud with them for at least 15 minutes a day. Fewer than a third of parents give even that much attention to the daily act of reading aloud. Have a teenager on your hands? See whether he or she would be interested in reading the same book as you and then discussing chapters together. It could become your own private book club.
3. Get real about food choices
It’s tough enough to pay attention all day. Add unhealthy food to the mix, and there are serious educational ramifications. Instead of allowing your kids to continue their Twinkie-and-hot dog lunch obsession, open their eyes to the bounty of real, natural food on the market. Even picky eaters can bring better lunches featuring more nutritious items. Despite national programs like the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, many school cafeteria offerings are still less than wholesome, and you know kids will grab the tater tots instead of the fruit.
An easy way to start swapping bad for better is to replace products made with processed and artificial sugars with the real deal. According to Info.Naturenates.com, processed sugars make up at least 25% of daily calories for one of every 10 Americans, according to Nature Nate’s Honey Co. This contributes to heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, and it’s not conducive to learning, either. Substitute bananas for Butterfingers, and the teacher may even send you a thank-you note.
4. Turn off tech
Screaming about screen time? You’re not alone. Common Sense Media’s research shows that 66% of parents feel their kids spend too much time immersed in tech devices. Not only can this lead them to miss out on stuff happening around them, but many become anxious for social validation or just plain sleepy after staying up too late online. Both outcomes are bad for learning.
Of course, your children will have to learn how to handle the responsibility of technology. Consequently, you probably won’t want to take away preteens’ and teens’ phones and tablets entirely. However, you can restrict their use. Help your kids learn how to police themselves, even if it starts what feels to you like World War III. They won’t like it, but having one fewer distraction means one fewer reason not to do homework or hit the sack.
5. Help them discover their voice
You can’t always be around, especially when your child is at school. Situations will continuously arise between kids and their friends, frenemies, teachers, and coaches. You want them to learn how to advocate for themselves; that’s why every kid needs to find — and feel comfortable using — his or her voice.
The best way to promote self-reliance is to avoid stepping in right away. At home, allow your kids to explore communication techniques, giving advice when necessary and letting them make minor mistakes. When they come home telling tales of fights at school, ask them how they handled the conflict or how they thought it should’ve been handled. Be forewarned: You will feel uncomfortable, particularly if you’ve always swooped in, mama bird-style. But it’s good for both of you.
School is your kid’s job. Establishing smart habits at home that your children can use in the “workplace” will help them reach their highest goals — and make all of you feel more confident.