The Family Unit

Help Your Child Succeed in School

With report cards being sent out this month parents may be looking for ideas on how to eliminate distractions and stimulators for their children. Research has shown that there are a number of areas which create problems or make the lives of students much more difficult. If you can eliminate these it will help your child become more successful.

1. No TV in your child’s room

  • Research is clear that this is a negative factor in the lives of children who generally spend too much time with electronics.
  • Before bedtime, have down time from any electronic games, videos, TV shows, etc. If they go to bed excited or stimulated they won’t have a restful sleep.
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep.

i. Age 4 to 12 = 10 hours or more
ii. 13 to 15 = 9 hours or more
iii. 16 + = 8 hours or more

2. Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast

  • The first meal of the day is the most important. Recent research has shown that children who do not eat breakfast have the brain functioning of a 72 year old.
  • Discuss with your child, especially teenagers, what breakfast works for them. Time for teens is often critical and they are rushing out the door and often the first thing left out is breakfast. There are some quick meals which they can just grab and eat as they are running. (Not as good as sitting down, but at least they are getting some nutrition).

3. Ensure your child has a good lunch.

  • This needs to be part of the routine you set in getting ready for school, either the night before or the morning of.
  • Discuss with your child what they would like, (making sure it’s not all sugary snacks) is helpful. Get your child to come shopping with you and learn what they would like to have for lunch.
  • Talk about good nutrition and the effect of too much sugar, how important vitamins are, etc.

4. Make use of programs that can help.

  • We are all experiencing a difficult time economically and many families are struggling to get by. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure, but a sign of strength to make sure your needs are being met. Most schools offer tutoring at lunch time or after school as part of the curriculum.
  • There are breakfast programs, nutrition programs, school supply programs, activity programs, which exist in many communities and many schools. Ask a school official what is available in your child’s school or community.

5. Keep cell phones and other electronics off-limits at bedtime.

  • Many of our children or youth have their own cell phones and it is now becoming one of the most common barriers to getting a good sleep. Create a routine of the cell phone being left in a spot away from the bedroom each night so they know where to find it each morning.

6. Take all issues raised by your child seriously.

  • If a child feels unsafe or feels that they are not being respected they will not do as well as they should. We know that bullying is still an issue in our society and one of the pressures that many of our children may face. Almost all children will tell someone when they have a problem, but how it is handled will determine whether they ask for help again.
  • When an issue is raised about a teacher, a friend, or another student call the school and discuss it with the appropriate school official. Make sure your child’s viewpoint is taken into consideration and always ask “how do we make sure this does not happen again?” It may be that your child has a part in whatever the issue is, but they do need to see that you will do something if they ever need help.

7. Encourage Reading.

  •  Reading, especially at very young ages, is associated with so many positive things such as social skills, problem solving, emotional development and academic success.
  • You can buy books, but the library is a wonderful source for an endless supply of reading materials.
  • Modelling is very important. If your child never sees you reading it can discourage them from finding it important.
  • Read with your child or have your child read to you. Reading is not only great for your child’s development it is one of the best ways to increase the connections between you and your child.

Specific strategies for different age groups:

3 to 7 year olds.
Anxiety for young children is greater when the unknown is greater. The remedy for this is to reduce this as much as possible. For example, if your child is going to a new school, visit the school, let them see where their room is, play in the schoolyard with your child. All these activities can make their school more familiar so there will be less anxiety that first day.

Feelings are not necessarily rational. It’s not helpful to tell your child that they really don’t feel scared or sad, or that there is no reason to be worried. Accept their feelings and then work out what “we can do together or what would help the situation”.

For example, you might say, “I hear that you are really worried about going on the bus tomorrow. It’s okay to be worried about new things. What can we do to help with that?” Then, together, you can then figure out a plan like walking your child to the bus, deciding what seat they can sit in, or perhaps suggesting they sit with someone they already know.

8 to 12 year olds
Being accepted by friends takes on greater meaning at this stage of life. (This impacts what they are wearing, who they’re friends with etc.). Often there is too much focus on being with “friends” and who they spend time with will be an increasing determinant of what their belief and value system will be.

This is a great age to have your children become more involved with other children in structured activities, such as sports teams, drama clubs, dancing, music, etc.

13 to 18 year olds
This is a time for more independence and is usually a time for increased conflict between parents and teens. One helpful word of advice is to stop asking “WHY”. The response to Why is usually shrugging of shoulders and then as parents, we get even more upset, because in our thinking they should know why they did something. The reality is that they often don’t really know. It just happened at the time. It is much more useful to ask this set of questions when something “bad” has happened. (Taken from restorative justice)

  • Tell me what happened (make sure you listen to them without interrupting)
  • What were you thinking at the time you did this?
  • What do you think about it now?
  • Who do you think was affected by this and how were they affected?
  • What do you need to do now?


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