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Supporting Your Child’s School Success

How can I help my child . . . ?

  • make friends and maintain healthy relationships 
  • be aware of their own impact on others
  • communicate and interact effectively 
  • solve interpersonal problems effectively
  • recognize and avoid peer pressure

How Can Parents and Caregivers Support School Success?

When we think of “school success,” our minds often jump to grades and academics. But in reality, the ingredients that go into a successful education go far beyond turning in homework and getting good grades. To be successful at school, students also need the knowledge and skills to …

  • Make friends and build relationships
  • Recognize when they need support and ask for it
  • Know where to go and who to ask for help
  • Identify and explore personal interests and skills, both academic and extracurricular
  • Manage time and schedules
  • Work both independently and collaboratively
  • Communicate ideas and express opinions
  • Solve problems 
  • Be organized, reliable, and responsible
  • Be willing to try new things and work with different people
  • Take the initiative to set  and work toward goals 
  • Manage stress and work through challenges

Schools have a duty to provide opportunities and experiences that help all children develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. This means supporting students’ academic progress, as well as their social and emotional development. 

Studies show that children do better in school when parents and caregivers partner with schools and are actively involved with their child’s educational experience.

There’s a lot of parents and caregivers can do to help their children succeed both in and outside of school, including

  • Knowing which school staff and resources are available to support their child
  • Being aware of school policies and procedures (grading, safety, bullying and harassment, etc.) 
  • Communicating with teachers, counselors, and other school personnel about their child’s progress, social skill, and emotional well-being
  • Attending parent-teacher conferences and school events 
  • Getting involved with the school through parent committees and other volunteer opportunities
  • Communicating with their child about their social experiences as well as  academic progress and grades
  • Encouraging their child to take advantage of extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, leadership, affinity groups) 
  • Supporting their child at home, including help with homework, study skills, time-management, organization, and goal-setting.

When parents and caregivers get involved and partner with schools and teachers, they play a vital role in ensuring that their child has the best chance of thriving and having a positive, successful school experience.

Why It Matters

You can make a difference in your child’s education. Even a simple act like sending an email introducing yourself to your child’s principal, teacher(s), and counselor at the beginning of the school year can help open the lines of communication between home and school.  

It’s no question that school can be challenging or even difficult for many children. The school experience can be frustrating, scary, and even painful for children with cognitive or physical disabilities, learning differences, neurodiverse conditions, or other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, language, gender, or sexuality, that may cause them to feel different, singled out, or marginalized by others.

Older children and teens may also be less likely to communicate their struggles to their parents or adults in general. Teens are managing increased academic and social pressures, as well as outside obligations such as part-time jobs, sports, or other activities. They may say everything is going fine, even if they are falling behind academically or having social problems at school. However, when these needs go unmet, it can increase academic challenges and lead to behavioral problems and social, emotional, or mental health issues.

When children reach high school, many parents begin to take a more hands-off approach. Some may feel that they are unqualified or lack the knowledge necessary to support their children with academic work. But although older children and teens may be able to handle more independence, continued support and guidance from the adults at home is still necessary for success in school and beyond.  

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 grades and 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 to 5)

  • 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

  • How aware are you of the extracurricular and after-school program opportunities (clubs, sports, affinity groups, community service, student leadership) available for students 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 or romantic partners?
  • 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’s assignments and progress?

Supporting School Success at Home

  • How often do you 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 always 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

Try multiple daily chats with your child. Ask general questions to learn about what your child’s life is like at school: What’s your favorite subject/class and why? Which ones do you find challenging/interesting and why? What’s your teacher like? What kind of projects or assignments do you have in your classes? Who do you usually sit with at lunch? Who’s your closest friend at school? What do you like about your school? What would you like to change or what do you wish was different about it?

Recognize effort, not just achievement. Grades may be the usual measure of success in schools, but acknowledging your child’s hard work, as well as success in other areas besides academics will help motivate them to continue working hard.

“You spent a lot of time on your research project. You should be proud.  I’m impressed at how focused you’ve been on getting your homework done. Thank you for being responsible and making sure you have time to get ready in the morning.”

Help them learn what support and resources are available. Have you tried asking your teacher for help? Is there an adult at school, whom you’d feel comfortable talking to about _______? Are there tutors available? Let’s find out who you can go to for help with _____?

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.
  • Learn how to access online information about your child’s progress and view grades, assignments, etc. Most schools have a parent portal on the school’s website. 
  • Familiarize yourself with school policies, such as attendance, tardiness, bullying, and harassment. 
  • Bookmark any pages 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 vocational programming, sports, clubs and activities, affinity groups, volunteer and internship programs, study abroad, and student leadership opportunities. 
  • Check the school’s events calendar regularly for upcoming special events, parent nights, testing dates.

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 for special events, sports events, tutoring, or after school activities

Help Your Child Get Support:

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

Make sure your teen 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 club, visiting the writing help center, or meeting with individual teachers or tutors for academic support
  • joining (or starting!) a school affinity group, e.g., students of color, LGBTQ students, bilingual/bicultural students

Support Success at Home:

  • Help your child avoid distractions by creating a dedicated space for them to focus and study. Choose a comfortable, well-lit, quiet space, such as a table or desk in a room without a TV.
  • Set limits on cell phones and screen time, especially during homework time. 
  • Sleep and nutrition are keys to success. Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast and gets at least 8 hours of sleep.

Contact & Collaborate:

There are lots of ways to get involved in your child’s education. Reach out and connect with your local school board, school administrators, teachers, support staff, as well as other community organizations for inspiration and resources. 

School-based Resources: Visit the school’s website to locate contact information for the following staff. Reach out to them with your questions or concerns:

School Personnel

Questions / Concerns About …

Your child’s teacher(s)  Your child’s academic, social, and emotional 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(may refer to the school psychologist, behavior interventionist, or 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
Sports program director, after-school program coordinator Extracurricular activities and clubs, volunteer opportunities
Career center / Vocational/Trades department Opportunities for hands-on learning, career preparation, trade skills courses
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. 

Ted Talk How to Raise Successful Kids Without Overparenting

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