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Help Your Child Thrive at School

For years, parents have been told that their support is critical to their student’s success. But some kinds of help are better than others. Here’s how to ensure you provide the most productive, positive support possible.

For years, parents have been told that their support is critical to their student’s success. But some kinds of help are better than others. Here’s how to ensure you provide the most productive, positive support possible. 

Let your child handle the assignments

For many families, homework has become a group effort, with parents pitching in to make sure it’s done correctly. Unfortunately, that effort could backfire. Research has found that when parents regularly assist with assignments, kids often perform worse. That may be because homework was designed to communicate to a child’s teacher what he did—and did not—grasp about the day’s lessons, notes Sharon Zumbrunn, Ph.D., an associate professor of educational psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Homework is a task that’s intended to be completed independently by students,” she says.

Help the teacher know your child

If your kid feels good about her teacher, she’s likely to feel positive about school overall. Research shows that a strong student-teacher relationship can have a big impact on children’s academic achievement. If you have any special concerns—if, say, your child is shy or is having trouble with a subject—bring it up with her teacher, and invite the teacher to keep in touch about any problems (or positive developments) that may arise.

Another way to take advantage of the power of a good teacher is to request one, when possible. Many schools won’t consider teacher requests, but if you feel there’s a compelling reason to get your child into a specific class—if, for example, she’s having difficulties in math and a particular teacher has a reputation for making the subject fun—address the principal in writing, listing specific reasons why that teacher is a good fit for your child. It’s unlikely you’ll be allowed to choose your child’s teacher every year, so save your request for when the need seems especially critical.

Keep reading to your kid

While it may seem logical to stop story time when your kids enter elementary school and can read on their own, the benefits of being read to extend well beyond early childhood. If you feel reading to your literate child seems “babyish,” consider this: a recent survey found that four in ten older kids wished their parents hadn’t stopped reading aloud to them. Other ideas: read alongside your child or start a family reading hour. Says Zumbrunn: “Just watching adults and older siblings read sends the strong message that reading is important.”

Talk about school

Kids who excel academically are more likely to come from families who have regular conversations about goings-on at school. It’s something Colorado parent Ashley S. has been doing since her 8-year-old was in preschool. Every afternoon, she makes an effort to greet him by asking a specific question that sparks a longer conversation, such as, “What did you write about today?” or “What was something hard that you worked on?”

There’s good reason to ask: “Talking about the school day sends a message that you value your child’s education,” says Elizabeth Heins, Ph.D., a professor of education at Stetson University. “And having regular discussions encourages critical thinking.” Bonus: these talks help build vocabulary—a strong predictor of school success, says Heins.

© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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