Helping your children succeed at school
Parents should praise effort as much as the successful completion of a task.
Your children are back at school and you are keen to help them settle into a routine again.
You want to help but do not know where to start. How can you encourage them to work to the best of their ability, guide them through the day-to-day challenges and ensure they remain happy and healthy into the process?
Begin by being interested and involved in what they are doing. Ask about what is happening at school but be sure to do so in a chatty way, not inquisition style! Look through their textbooks, ask about what they are doing in class and get them to explain topics that may be new to you. If you can get them into the habit of talking about their day you will be aware of concerns or issues which arise. It will also give you an opportunity to provide encouragement, advice or consolation.
Be a good listener. As well as hearing what they are saying be alert for what they are not saying, for signs that they may be worried about something or may be having difficulty with a particular subject or school friend. Let them express their feelings openly and reassure them.
Provide suitable study facilities. Most children study best where there is peace and quiet so keep noise levels down and try to cut out distractions, such as the television.
Establishing a study pattern is important, too. Primary school children, especially those in the lower classes, may have very little homework to do. However, it is a good idea to get them into the habit of sitting down quietly and looking over their school books. This will prepare them for the routine of homework later.
Try to get homework done as soon as possible while it is still fresh in their minds. If that is not possible set aside a special time for it. It is also a good idea to encourage them to do it all in one time block. Tempting as it may be at times do not do their expercises for them or rush in with the correct answer if they are finding some question or subject difficult. Offer advice or possible solutions instead. Directing a child towards the correct answer is more helpful. Afterwards, look over their homework. That way you will be able to spot mistakes and discover early indications of potential problems.
Help them draw up a plan. As they move into more senior classes, especially in second level, their homework load will get heavier. Advise them from the start to break up their work schedule into manageable chunks. Include short breaks to help them relax and refocus. Tackling the most difficult assignments first can be a good idea. That way the easier subjects are kept until last and even if they are tired and lacking in concentration they will be able to get through those. Help them learn to prioritise by completing the most important exercises early on. Then even if time runs out they will have completed the most pressing exercise. The optional tasks or lessons with a later deadline can be deferred until another day.
Generous with encouragement
Be generous with encouragement and aim to boost your children’s self esteem. Praise effort as much as the successful completion of a task. Develop their talents, encourage social contact by inviting children to the house and enrol younger ones, especially, in after school activities or courses if you have the resources and the idea appeals to them. This will increase their social confidence for mixing in other settings.
Build optimism. You can do this by making them feel good about themselves, encouraging them to find solutions to problems from an early age and fostering a sense of humour.
Aim too to establish a good relationship with your children’s teachers and follow their advice on how best to help your schoolgoing children. If you are concerned they are spending too much time doing homework (or more likely not enough!) find out what is the recommended nightly period.
Focus on their talents. Look out for these and nurture them from an early age. Their skills may lie in sport, drama or entertainment rather than academia so make sure you give them opportunities to shine. Avoid at all costs putting them down because they do not live up to your expectations or comparing them with other siblings or relations.
Keep things in perspective. Parent/teacher meetings, school reports or State examination results can provide some worrying or disappointing information on occasion but try to see the positives in these. View them as important resources. Use the knowledge gained to help your children reorganise, refocus or simply knuckle down to hard work. It is important to remember that school grades are just a measure of academic success and not a reflection of your child’s strengths and character generally.
Having goals will give them a sense of direction and keep them alert and focused. These need not be elaborate but should be specific, realistic and time related. Breaking them down into achievable steps will boost their self confidence and encourage them to aim higher. Setting targets for each day/week/month will help them organise their time more efficiently. Get them to draw up an action plan detailing how much time they are going to devote to realising their plans. Ask them to make a list of everything they want to do tomorrow/this week/month listing them in order of priority. Encourage them to take the first step as soon as possible. Reward them for effort and any mini-successes. If your children are not the studious types remember any study is better than no study. Getting older children to review their day at the end of the evening and examine how much they have done may give them a sense of achievement or shock! if they have made little progress.