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How can you practice parent engagement this school year?

August 30, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How can you practice parent engagement this school year? | Parents and teachers chat happily in a classroom.

You’ve prepared your child to start school by getting him or her into the back-to-school routine, buying school supplies, and sharing how to make a good impression on his or her new teacher(s). But have you thought about your role in the process once school starts?

Parents need to be just as prepared as students for back to school, making an effort to have a positive and open relationship with teachers and administration and practicing effective parent engagement at school and at home.

Parent Engagement at School

  1. Introduce yourself to teachers and administration.
    At the beginning of the school year, attend any parent-teacher meeting opportunities to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s). If there aren’t any formal opportunities, arrive at school early in the first week to introduce yourself to the teacher and administration.
  2. Share contact information and ask how the teacher prefers to communicate.
    Taking this initiative demonstrates to the teacher that you are proactively open to communicate about your child’s successes and/or concerns.
  3. Volunteer in the classroom or at the school.
    If you have time to volunteer as a classroom aide, to help at a classroom party, or chaperone a field trip, you can demonstrate to the school that you are an engaged parent while also demonstrating to your child that you are invested in his or her education.
  4. Request parent engagement training.
    The YOU Program, which is the parent engagement program upon which YOU Parent is based, offers various forms of training so that parents can learn how to best practice parent engagement with their children. You can learn the basics in a parent workshop and become a parent leader and train other parents at the school after attending a parent leadership training workshop.

Ask your principal about offering these workshops in your school, as they can boost student achievement by enlisting parent support.

Parent Engagement at Home
In addition to practicing parent engagement at school, you must also practice it at home by attending to your child’s needs while building the foundation for academic success.

A child requires all four of his or her core needs to be met in order to live a successful life, so parents must nurture a child’s social well-being, emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development.

You can do that by practicing these eight parent engagement activities and asking yourself:

  1. Are you paying attention to your child’s social and emotional well-being? 
  2. Are you making sure he or she is living a healthy life? 
  3. Are you coordinating with your child’s teacher to foster academic success outside of the classroom? 
  4. Are you modeling the behavior you want to see in your son or daughter outside the home?

By asking these questions and making a good impression at your child’s school, you’re already on the path to parent engagement success. Get involved and support your child’s needs to make this school year a great one.

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How to Respect Your Teen’s Privacy

August 23, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Respect Your Teen's Privacy | Find a balance between guiding your teenager to make good decisions while providing and respecting his or her privacy. | A teen boy blocks his mom from talking to him by putting up his hand.

As your child becomes a teenager, he or she will want more privacy, independence, and in turn, more distance from you. While it’s difficult to accept that your child is becoming an adult, it’s important to remember that one of a parent’s main responsibilities is to prepare their child for adulthood. In doing so, you must foster that independence and provide privacy for your teen.

At the same time, you still need to be an active and engaged parent. Find a balance between guiding your teenager to make good decisions while providing and respecting his or her privacy.

Build Trust
If you haven’t had reasons to distrust your teenager, start a conversation with him or her. Praise your teen for who he or she has become: smart, kind, caring, sympathetic, happy, a good friend, a good teammate, a good brother or sister. Explain that for those reasons, you trust him or her and want to reward your teen with more privacy.

In your conversation, ask what kind of privacy your teen wants. Is it more time with friends, more alone time, extra time to sleep in on weekends? See if the two of you (and your parenting partner) can come to a compromise. Maybe it’s an extended curfew every once in a while, or the family goes to dinner once a week and gives your teen some peace and quiet at home.

If you proactively acknowledge and reward the trust you have for your teenager, he or she is more likely to continue to keep up the good behavior, and you can grant him or her privacy as needed.

Establish Rules
Your teen likely doesn’t want you going in his or her room and looking through drawers, phones, diaries, etc. And do you really want to be snooping around his or her room? Think about how you would feel if your teen was peering around your room.

Establish ground rules with your teen. For example, you won’t go in your teenager’s room if he or she does his or her own laundry. But if your teen doesn’t want to do the laundry, then you will need to go into his or her room to collect laundry and change sheets. That doesn’t mean you will snoop, but you will need to go in and out of the room for laundry purposes.

Privacy also works as a great incentive for increased study time. If your teen is struggling with certain subjects in school, ask him or her to spend additional time—with your help, after-school assistance, or tutoring—on that subject. If the next test or report card produces a better grade, reward your teenager with more privacy, provided he or she keeps up the additional study time.

Acknowledge Issues
If you suspect your teenager is engaging in behaviors that you don’t approve of, address your concerns by speaking directly with your teen. You know your child and can probably tell if he or she is being honest with you.

If there are behavioral issues you need to address, then explain that you own the house and have the right to ensure illegal activities aren’t happening on your property. Sometimes underage drinking and drug use are a concern, and you might need to search your teen’s room for those items. If it gets to that point, it is important that you explain why you must search the room and restrict their privacy, as well as what the repercussions are not only for your teenager, but for you and the rest of the family.

If you feel the behavior is at a point where you can still offer your teen an incentive to stop, do so. The incentive should involve increased privacy, which you can grant once you feel you have rebuilt the trust between the two of you.

For a deeper discussion on a parent’s rights to search and a child’s right to privacy, read this article from Empowering Parents.

Tags :  teenagershigh schoolsocialacademic
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Fun and Safe Websites for Kids

August 16, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Fun and Safe Websites for Kids | How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers? | A laptop sits on a table with the article title, "Fun + Safe Websites for Kids" on the screen.

Your kids are digital natives, which means they have always lived with the internet and digital devices. For those of us who remember the exciting yet frustrating sound of AOL connecting to the phone line, it’s a part of parenting that we don’t have our own stories to model after.

How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers?

There are fun and safe websites out there for kids of all ages. When in doubt, I recommend checking Common Sense Media, as they are constantly rating and evaluating various media to give parents the information they need to determine if the TV show, app, or movie is appropriate for their kids.

Toddlers
If you’re going to give your toddlers screen time, limit them to TV cartoons, movies, and apps made for their age range. Most of the apps designed for toddlers focus on learning in a fun way, so try some of these.

Elementary School
For younger elementary school kids (grades K–3), focus on their favorite TV shows and topics they’re interested in. PBS Kids has great options that include cartoons and learning activities for varied interests, including science, engineering, and nature.

For older elementary school kids (grades 4–6), games that reinforce the learning they’re doing in school, like Minecraft, can be great opportunities to keep learning at home. As a parent, you need to enforce playing in moderation and not physically meeting up with people your kids might meet online in the game.

Use game time as a reward for completing homework. You could even use coding games and apps to teach your kids how to code.

Preteens and Teenagers
It’s important to know what apps and sites your teens are on so that you can set guidelines for safe usage. Again, Common Sense Media has a great breakdown of the apps your teens are using now and what you need to know about them.

The good news? The most popular sites and apps that teens are using are pretty safe. As with all screen time, it’s important to enforce using it in moderation and after homework is done. And make sure you require these privacy tips on your teen’s social networks.

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Family Activity: Sunday Meal Prep

August 9, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Family Activity: Sunday Meal Prep | This is a great activity and weekly tradition that you can start doing with your family. | A mother and daughter prepare dinner together.

A colleague recently told me about an activity she started doing with her son every weekend and I want to pass it along:

My son and I started planning our meals for the week on Sundays. After breakfast, we sit down and talk about what we want for dinner that week. He helps me write down the ingredients he remembers and I add the items he forgets.

Then, we go to the grocery store and pick out everything on the list. For him, it’s a shopping bonanza! He gets to choose his box of cereal, help me pick out the produce while learning what to look for—I let him softly squeeze tomatoes to see if they’re ripe and have showed him how to choose a good pineapple.

That afternoon, we start preparing food for the week. We’ll cut up carrots and celery for lunchbox snacks and sometimes we’ll bake bran muffins with fruit in them for breakfast on-the-go or after-school snacks. And we always make Sunday dinner together.

Now that we’ve started this tradition, he gets really excited for Sundays because it’s a day of shopping, cooking, and eating! I’m just glad he enjoys helping and I get a chance to teach him little lessons, like how to measure and pick out fruit and veggies. He values his food more now that he gets to participate in the process.

This is a great activity and weekly tradition that you can start doing with your family. My colleague’s son is four years old, so he can help with basic things like recalling ingredients in favorite recipes, measuring ingredients, and mixing ingredients by hand, but the older your child is, the more responsibility he or she can take on. For example, an 11-year-old could make the salad while a 15-year-old cooks the main course.

Try this activity this weekend and let us know how it goes in the comments below. Will you use it as an opportunity to teach measuring and math skills, or will you focus on the life skills like picking the right avocado and budgeting for your grocery run? Whatever lessons or skills you teach, this activity is also a bonding experience for your family, so have fun and bon appetit!

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Our 14 Best Back to School Tips

August 2, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Our writers and program author have over 150 years of education and parenting experience combined. From all of that expertise, we’ve gathered our best 14 back to school tips and put them in one place—right here!—so you don’t need to look any further. From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered. | An elementary school student chooses a pack of pencils for her back to school supplies.

Starting a New School

Starting preschool, kindergarten, high school, or a new school system altogether can be stressful for some children. As parents, we must ease that transition so that their first experience in each school setting is one of comfort and excitement instead of fear and anxiety.

Here’s how you can prepare your child, depending on what new school he or she is starting:

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | "Back to School" is written on an illustrated chalkboard with paint, rulers, and assorted school supplies in the image.

Back to School Tips

For kids returning to the same school, there are a few basic things you must do before they can start, including:

Once you have checked those activities off the list, relieve some of the anticipation and pressure of the first day of school.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | Going Away to College | A father watches his son grab his dorm supplies from the car.

Going Away to College

For teenagers heading off to college, it’s an exciting time. But for many parents and the siblings still at home, the first time a child goes off to college can be challenging. Learn how to prepare your family with these articles.

Whatever your child’s age, when you prepare him or her for school physically, emotionally, and socially, he or she will settle more easily into a successful academic routine. Use these activities to bond as a family before the transition and you’ll create happy memories before the school year begins. 

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