Nurture your child's inner motivation to learn
Successful learners are motivated more by their own curiosity than by any other reward. To promote this kind of "intrinsic motivation," allow your child some independence to explore the things he's learning about. Provide learning challenges he can be successful with. Then, when he completes a task, ask him to evaluate his own efforts. When you offer praise, compliment efforts more than accomplishments.
Break big tasks into small pieces to help your child see them through
Many elementary schoolers have a tough time thinking ahead and following through on their plans. One reason is that they lack a realistic sense of time. Your child may really think one day is enough time to finish a big project. Help her break large assignments down into small parts to do over several days.
Get your child's attention when giving directions
Does your child seem forgetful, absent-minded or irresponsible when you give directions? An ability to focus on instructions and carry them out is important to his school success. To help him concentrate, reduce distractions when you speak to him. Turn off the TV. Say things like "I know it's hard for you to pay attention, but I need to see your eyes when I'm talking to you." Then keep your instructions short.
Strengthen skills that improve social interactions
Swooping in and saving your child from social challenges won't help her learn to navigate them. Instead, develop her social survival skills. When she describes a social situation, ask questions like, "What did you do next?" This tells your child that she can act to affect the outcome of social interactions.
Teachers' tips can make a big difference in your child's learning
What do teachers wish that families would do to help their students be successful in school? Simple things: Set firm standards. Read to your child. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Communicate often with the teachers, and give them lots of information about your child's interests, strengths and weaknesses. When you team up with the teachers, you improve your child's chance of school success.
Routines are stability your child can count on
A feeling of security gives children the courage to face challenges. For most kids, that sense of security comes from feeling loved. It also comes from knowing that some things don't change, such as certain family routines. Set regular times for bed, meals, reading and studying. When schedules must change, let your child know how and why.
Healthy snack choices encourage positive food habits
Healthy food is fuel for growing bodies and brains. To help your child learn to make nutritious food choices, create an "anytime" shelf in your refrigerator. Stock it with a selection of healthy foods such as carrot sticks, broccoli "trees," cheese, chunks of melon and raisins. Then allow your child to help himself from this shelf any time he is hungry. He'll like choosing, and you'll know he's making healthy choices.
Volunteering encourages family and community teamwork
When families volunteer together, they strengthen their relationships. They have a shared purpose. Children learn about caring. They learn about their community and teamwork. And they learn that they can make a difference. Why not sit down as a family and brainstorm ways you could volunteer, such as by raising awareness for a cause, organizing a school supply drive or sprucing up a playground.
Is your teen outside the 'in crowd'?
When you think back to your own school days, you probably remember the faces of the "popular" kids. Popularity is as important to teens now as it was then. If your teen feels unpopular, be supportive. Remind her that she's worthy of friendship and has a lot to offer. Help her practice friend-making skills, such as smiling and introducing herself. Encourage her to invite a classmate to join your family in an activity.
It's no joke that humor can make reading fun
Learning to read can be hard work. So it's important to remind your child how much fun reading can be. Write a joke on silly stationery and tuck it in with your child's lunch. When he reads it to his friends, the laughter he hears will make him feel special and proud. And he'll connect those positive feelings with reading.
Help your child put travel time to good use
Time management is a valuable study skill. One way to help your child make use of spare minutes is to make the most of time in the car. For example, you might tape cards with spelling words to the backs of the front seats. If your child practices them each time she's in the car all week, by Friday she will be ready for the spelling test!
Address mistakes respectfully and privately
Elementary school students are learning the social skills that help make a classroom comfortable and productive, such as how to treat people with respect. When your child makes mistakes, don't point them out in front of others. That will only make him ashamed, not teach him to be considerate. Ask yourself what he needs to learn, then teach him those skills one-on-one.
Daily conversations show your child that schoolwork matters
Talking with your child about school shows her you care about her life and her education. Make it a regular habit to have your child show you at least one example of her schoolwork each day. Comment on progress she's making, praise her effort and encourage her to do her best work. You'll learn more about what your child is learning, and your child will learn that schoolwork is important.
Anger often masks other emotions
Disrespectful, angry children may be perfectionists—and very good students. Or they may show their anger and disrespect by doing poorly in school. Anger and disrespect are often a cover for other emotions, such as fear or frustration. If your child has recently begun behaving defiantly, think about what's changed in her life. Ask what's bothering her and say you want to help. Then discuss ways to change her behavior.
Teach listening by example
There isn't a class at school called "Listening." That's because listening is important in ALL school classes. One of the best ways to teach your child to listen is to set an example. Each day, set aside some time to talk about school. Ask questions to get the ball rolling. Then stop what you're doing and pay attention to what your child is saying. Make eye contact as you listen, and give your child time to put thoughts into words.
A 'checkbook' can help your child account for money
Giving a child an allowance is one way to teach financial responsibility. But you may not always have the right cash on hand. Give your child a "checkbook." Make up some checks that look like the real thing. On the first day of the month, "deposit" your child's allowance in the checkbook. When he needs to make a purchase, he can write you a check, and you can pay for the item. He'll get practice writing and learn math skills in the bargain.
Rev up your read-aloud routine
Want to strengthen your child's vocabulary, improve her reading scores and have fun…all in 20 minutes a day? Read aloud! Try these hints for effective read-alouds: Pick a regular reading time and stick to it. Look for books you'll both like. If you preview them yourself first, you can read them aloud with style for your child. Finally, stop each reading session while your child is still eager to hear what will happen next.
Reach out to the counselor with questions or concerns about school
Whether your child is facing pandemic-related issues or you have more typical learning or development questions, the school counselor is a great resource. Here are just a few of the issues you can talk about together: Concerns about schoolwork and school access. Worries about any social or discipline issues. Your child's strengths, limitations or special needs. Thoughts about your student's education goals. Counselors even help elementary schoolers begin to think about career interests.
Families are valued partners in education
There is a mountain of evidence showing that family engagement makes a big difference in children's education. Your involvement can improve student achievement and attendance, and give your child a more positive attitude toward school. Plus, you'll get a better understanding of school programs and policies. Ask the teacher or principal how you can get involved.
Give your child the facts about tough topics
Experts say the best time to begin talking to kids about difficult issues is when they are between ages nine and 11. They're old enough to grasp the complexity of an issue. But they're still young enough to listen. When you talk together, find out what your child already knows. Share facts without exaggerating, and explain your position. Then set a good example by making sure your actions support your words.