As an educator, I see and hear from numerous families regarding the struggles of heading back to school. While some parents rejoice at the idea of returning to normalcy, others have difficulty adapting and often wonder how to equip their children for success. Here are some helpful tips to ensure your family is on the right track.
- Establish a routine.
Studies show that students who follow more structured routine tend to feel safer and more secure, which enables them to engage their curiosity to explore and learn. Experts recommend having at least one meal together daily to allow everyone to share ideas and thoughts about their experiences from the day.
- Give children responsibilities.
As children grow, it is imperative to provide them with opportunities to be independent and accountable for themselves. Many websites offer age-appropriate lists of tasks for which children may be responsible. This training at a young age will equip your child to function and succeed as an adult later in life.
- Read with your children.
This step is imperative with elementary-aged children, as well as any who struggle with reading. Reading aloud to your children or taking turns reading will increase your child’s oral vocabulary, which will in turn increase reading comprehension, as they begin to recognize words they have heard. Studies show that individuals who read develop increased cognitive abilities and critical thinking skills. In addition, children who read with their families (or are read to) have a substantially higher likelihood of finishing school and furthering their education.
- Teach your children to problem solve.
This skill encompasses so much more than merely building mathematical proficiency. Children must be taught to be independent, critical thinkers to adapt to every circumstance in life. Furthermore, they must be permitted to identify these problems, generate solutions, and persevere until the obstacle has been overcome. One certain facet of life is that of continual problems. Children must be equipped to solve these problems independently and take responsibility for their actions and decisions.
- Allow your child to fail.
*Gasp* I know this is an unpopular idea. We all want our children to be the best athletically, academically, artistically, etc., but few of us are willing to allow them to make mistakes to achieve this premier status. The fact is that we learn best from the mistakes we make. “Helicopter parenting” often leads to feelings of inadequacy within our children, while limiting the joys inherent within parenting. While it is often incredibly difficult to watch our children fail, it is absolutely vital that children identify those mistakes that led to the failure and recognize methods to prevent its reoccurrence. By not allowing them to experience the disappointments associated with failure, you render them helpless. They become incapable of solving issues on their own, which greatly debilitates them throughout life. So, although difficult, let them fail. In doing so, you empower them to succeed.
- Partner with your child’s school teacher.
Your child spends the majority of their day at school with their teacher. Because of this, you and your child’s teacher form a unique partnership. Foster open communication with this teacher. Trust in her ability to teach your student and recognize that she has your child’s best interests at heart. Know that teachers have high expectations to propel your child to success in and out of school. One of our favorite expressions as educators is this: “If you don’t believe everything your child tells you about us, we won’t believe everything they tell us about you.” You undoubtedly hear stories of occurrences at school. Trust me—we hear all kinds of things about incidents that allegedly transpire at home. We recognize that these narratives are not always 100% accurate, and we endeavor to give you the benefit of the doubt. We ask that you do the same. Remember, this is a partnership. Let’s encourage one another.
- Be positive about learning.
Children feed on the feelings and beliefs of the adults, particularly their parents. They recognize the unspoken cues as well. If you have a problem with a teacher, administration, school, or another child or parent, your child will distinguish this. This in turn affects his or her learning ability and overall academic success. Children cannot compartmentalize their feelings. Negative feelings originating from adults often render the students confused, disheartened, and apathetic towards learning.
- Allow them to be children.
They are impressionable, innocent, and have a much different view of the world than adults do. Children need to have fun, play outside, and solve age-appropriate issues with their peers. It is during these moments of play that creativity, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationships are developed and nurtured. Far too often, children are exposed to the trials facing adults. This places an unmitigated amount of stress on children, as they are not yet equipped to process the more complex difficulties of life. These issues often manifest as behavioral within the classroom, as kids struggle to battle problems they are not prepared to handle. According to Family Systems Today, children become “symptom bearers” of their home environment. They tend to mirror the problems occurring at home because they cannot effectively process and address them. Randy Withers, a professional counselor, states, “When adults start behaving as adults, problems like these tend to go away.” Be the adults and let your children be children.
- PUT AWAY THE TECHNOLOGY!
Whew! We could write an entire dissertation on this topic—in fact, that’s not a bad idea. In January, two of Apple’s largest investors cited concerns regarding the growing epidemic of technological addiction. Yes, that is the term used by professional clinicians: addiction. We are a society that is absolutely obsessed with our gadgets. Adults and children, alike, constantly stare at screens—and it is absolutely destructive to our kids. According to research conducted by Harvard and San Diego State Universities, “Teens who spend 5 hours per day on a device are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, while 8th graders who use social media heavily have a 27% higher risk of depression.” Further, more than 85% of teachers report witnessing greater emotional and social struggles in students due to the ubiquity of technological sources. These statistics are absolutely staggering! Another recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America reported a chemical imbalance in teens who were described as “smart-phone addicted.” Again, the data is just beginning to scratch the surface of the pandemic we are witnessing. While some technology may be beneficial and perhaps necessary, the detriment to our children’s very lives seems to be irrevocable and catastrophic. I implore you to limit and monitor their use closely. It may save your child’s life.
- Pray as a family.
One thing is absolutely certain: parenting is HARD. You cannot do it alone. You cannot be with your child every moment of every day. You must trust that you have equipped them with necessary skills to succeed and that those in authority over them have their best interests at heart. Above all, you must trust that God has a unique plan for your child and that He will accomplish His will in his or her life. Proverbs 4:7 states, “Wisdom is the most important thing. So get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding.” Parenting is a lifelong commitment, so we are bound to mess up at least a million times (let’s be honest). Do your best by teaching the principles of God’s Word, pray for your children constantly, and then trust God to do the rest. It may be difficult to believe, but He loves them far greater than you possibly can. He will sustain them (and you).
May God bless you and yours as you seek that which is best for your child. They are our future, so invest in theirs.
–Jessica Bullard serves as principal at Outreach Christian Education and is a Metro Voice contributor.