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Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health and Development

How can I

  • help my child succeed and thrive at school?
  • get involved with my child’s school and education?
  • ensure that my child’s academic, social, and emotional needs are met at school?
  • communicate with my child’s teachers and other school staff?

Your child is just beginning their educational journey. The elementary school years are a critical time for children to build positive attitudes toward school and learning that will last a lifetime.  Parents and caregivers play an important role in making sure their child gets what they need to learn and to have a positive school experience. 

Why It Matters

Studies show that children do better in school when parents and caregivers are actively engaged with their child’s education. From reading together and helping with homework to attending school events or joining the parent-teacher organization; there are many ways for families to get involved both at home and at school. 

It’s a great idea to get involved early, when your child is in kindergarten or early elementary, so you can build connections and relationships with school staff, as well as other families.

Parents and caregivers can help their children succeed both at home and at school 

Supporting at HomeCommunication with School StaffInvolvement in School-related Events and Activities
  • Involving your child with daily tasks, such as choosing clothes for school, packing their backpack, getting to school on time, etc.
  • Talking regularly about school friends, favorite subjects, what comes easy or feels challenging for them. 
  • Reading together, helping with homework.
  • Allowing your child to work through challenges, while offering support if they need it. 
  • Reading the school website/ classroom newsletters, announcements, and other communication from teachers or school staff
  • Being aware of school policies and procedures (grading, safety, bullying and harassment, etc.) 
  • Communicating with teachers, counselors and support staff; asking questions expressing concerns about your child’s academic progress or social skills 
  • Getting to know school staff who are responsible for supporting their child
  • Attending parent-teacher conferences and school events, like open house, curriculum nights, PTO events, art shows, concerts, etc.
  • Joining parent-teacher committees or other volunteer opportunities
  • Encouraging your child to join in after-school activities, band or chorus, clubs, or other extra-curricular offerings.

Two-way Communication Makes a Difference

School-to-home communication is sometimes a one-way street, with the school or classroom teacher sending out information to all families. Some parents and caregivers may feel hesitant to contact the school or teacher with questions or concerns; however, it can be very helpful to take initiative to reach out directly and start the conversation. For example, sending a brief email introducing yourself to your child’s principal, teacher(s), and counselor at the beginning of the school year, along with any questions, concerns, or helpful background about your child can help build a positive connection between home and school, which leads to greater academic success and improved school experiences for students at all ages and grade levels. 

Establishing open channels for two-way communication with school staff can make a big difference, especially if you have questions or concerns about support and services for children with special needs or circumstances. 

Explore the tools and resources in the following sections to reflect on the ways you can continue to support your child’s school success.

Check In:

Just as academics are just one aspect of your child’s school experience, helping with homework is just one part of supporting their school success. In addition to academic support, there are many ways that you can contribute positively to your child’s educational experience. Complete this questionnaire to reflect on the ways you already support your child’s school success and identify areas you can focus on in the future. 

School Involvement / Engagement (on a scale from 1 [least] to 5 [most])

In general, how engaged or involved are you with your child’s school?

How aware are you of the opportunities for parents and caregivers to get involved at your child’s school (volunteer, leading after-school activities, Parent Teacher Organizations, parent leadership councils, etc.)?

How often do you communicate directly with your child’s teacher(s), counselor or other school personnel about your child’s academic progress or social development?

How often do you attend “open house” or other events for parents at your child’s school? 

How often do you attend regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences?

Awareness of School Resources and Policies (on a scale from 1 to 5)

How aware are you of the extracurricular and after-school program opportunities (clubs, band, chorus, sports, arts, etc.) offered at your child’s school?

How aware are you of the tutoring and academic support opportunities for students at your child’s school?

How aware are you of the bullying and harassment policies at your child’s school?

Communication with Your Child (on a scale from 1 to 5)

How often do you discuss with your child how things are going and what they are learning at school?

If your child is struggling with an academic subject, how likely are they to let you know?

If your child is struggling with a personal/social issue at school, how likely are they to let you know?

How often do you talk with your child about their social life or relationships with friends?

How often do you discuss assignments, grades or academic progress with your child?

How often do you access the school’s online portal (if available) to review your child’ assignments and progress: 

Supporting School Success at Home  

How often do you read with your child or support your child with schoolwork / homework?

How aware are you of your child’s strengths and needs regarding their organization skills, study skills, time-management, problem-solving, and goal-setting skills?

Does your home have a comfortable, distraction-free space where your child can do schoolwork?

Do you set rules and limits on cell phone use, video games, and TV-watching  to ensure your child completes school assignments first?

Do you encourage/support your child’s involvement in after school or extracurricular activities?

Review and reflect on your responses to the questionnaire above. Which areas are strengths? Did you identify any areas you could focus on in the future to better support your child’s school success?

Connect & Communicate:

No matter your child’s age, showing an interest and getting more involved in their education is a worthwhile investment. Talking with them about their educational experiences—including academics, extracurricular interests, and social connections—is a great first step in supporting school success.  

Start the Conversation

You can start with daily chats with your child.  Ask general questions to learn about what your child’s life is like at school.  For example:

  • What’s your favorite thing about your school/classroom? 
  • What’s your teacher like? Tell me about your class.
  • What do you do in the morning/afternoon?
  • Tell me about a book or story you read at school.
  • Tell me about your other teachers for art, music, library,  etc.
  • Who do you usually sit with at lunch? 
  • What do you usually play / who do you usually play with at recess? 
  • Who are your closest friends at school?
  • What do you like about your school? 
  • What is hard about it or what do you wish were different about it? 

If your child expresses difficulties or worries about academics or social-emotional aspects of their school life, help them learn that they can ask for help when they need it. Ask questions to help them learn who they can ask for help. For example: 

“Have you tried asking your teacher or another grown-up for help? 

“Do you know [school counselor]. She can help kids when they are feeling upset or worried.” 

Remember that it’s always okay to reach out directly to your child’s teacher, principal, or the school counselor with questions or concerns.

Additional Ways to Support School Success

Get to Know the School: 

  • Visit the school website and social media accounts to get a sense of the school culture and learn about the teachers, staff, and student support resources.
  • Familiarize yourself with school policies, such as attendance, tardiness, bullying and harassment. 
  • Bookmark any classroom webpages or blogs for your child’s individual classes and teachers.
  • Locate the staff contacts page and note email addresses/phone numbers for your child’s teachers, the school principal and counselor.
  • Check out available extracurricular and afterschool programs, including sports, chorus, band, clubs, etc.
  • Check the school’s events calendar regularly for upcoming special events, parent nights, family fun nights.

Get Involved:

Children do better when parents are actively engaged in their education. There are many ways to increase your involvement, including

  • talking with your child frequently about their experiences at school, both social and academic
  • supporting academics / helping with homework
  • knowing school policies and schedules
  • reading school emails and newsletters 
  • introducing yourself and communicating with teachers, principal, counselor, and other school support staff
  • attending school events and parent-teacher conferences
  • joining parent-teacher organizations or booster clubs
  • offering to volunteer in your child’s classroom or for special events, sports events, tutoring, or after school activities

Help Your Child Get the Support They Need:

Ask questions, be informed about school resources, and advocate for your child’s needs. Exercise your rights and apply for special services (Get an Individual Education Plan, 504 education plan, gifted education plan) if needed. 

Make sure your child is familiar with the people, policies, and resources available to help them succeed at school. Talk to them about how to get support when they need it, for example

  • setting up a time to talk with their counselor about social challenges, stress, or emotional issues
  • accessing support options for students with special needs, e.g., physical disabilities, learning differences, medical and mental health support
  • attending an afterschool homework help or tutoring session, or meeting with individual teachers or tutors for academic support

Additional Ways to Support Success at Home:

  • Sleep and nutrition are keys to success. Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast and gets at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Limit screen time on tablets, cell phones, and TV to about 2 hours per day.
  • Encourage your child to spend time outdoors and get daily physical activity, including on weekends.

Contact & Collaborate:

Reach out and connect with school staff as well as other community organizations for additional inspiration and resources. 
School Personnel Questions / Concerns about …
Your child’s teacher(s)  Your child’s academic, social, and emotions needs; grading policies, assignments, tests, IEP, support or tutoring for specific subjects, volunteer opportunities
Principal School or district policies, parent and student rights, special services available, behavior issues, volunteer opportunities
Counselor / Behavior Interventionist / Social Worker Social emotional development, relationships, stress management, family transitions, college applications,  mental health, behavioral changes, concerns, or challenges
PTO or School Board chair  Committee work or volunteer opportunities
After-school program coordinator Extracurricular activities and clubs, volunteer opportunities
Academic Support /  Special Education Program Director Special needs, special education services, disabilities, Individual Education Plans, tutoring, writing and homework support
Community Organizations: After-school youth development programming, camps, leadership opportunities, academic support, community service:
  • Local Parks and Recreation Department
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • YMCA
  • Local Social Services or mental health organizations

Continue Learning:

Explore these resources to learn more about how you can support your child’s school success. 

Edutopia (article):  The Home-School Team: An Emphasis on Parent Involvement

Parent Involvement in Key to Student Success (article):

National PTA Special Education Resources (website):

Experiencing Motherhood:  Single and Black (podcast):  Single Mom’s Involvement in Their Child’s Education:

Supporting Students Beyond Grades

Ted Talk How to Raise Successful Kids without Overparenting (Video):

Brene Brown (podcast):  Grit and the Importance of Trying New Things

Effort, not achievement (video):

Embracing Kids’ Failure (video):

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