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Parent Engagement in Elementary School

November 22, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in Elementary School | How to guide your child through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support. | A father plays cards with his son and daughter.

As your child begins elementary school, your role as your child’s primary teacher transitions to his or her official teacher at school. While the school will now lead your child’s formal education, you still need to guide him or her through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support.

Here are some ways you can practice parent engagement while your child goes through elementary school.

Encourage Friendships
As your child starts spending most of the day at school, he or she will primarily be socializing with peers. According to Sunny P. Chico, author of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “These early friendships teach your child how to interact with the world.”

Encourage your child to develop friendships with classmates and children from the neighborhood by arranging play dates outside of school, like inviting a classmate over on the weekend. Teach your child what being a good friend means: being kind and considerate of each other’s feelings.

Listen to Your Child
Think back to your childhood. Are there times when you tried to tell your parents something but they didn’t listen or didn’t understand the severity of what you were telling them?

Sometimes when our children reach out to us about problems, we dismiss them as trivial childhood quarrels or tattling. But it’s important for your child to know that he or she can express an issue and you will hear it. Listen to what your child is saying, ask questions about how he or she feels, and think about whether it might be a symptom of a greater problem, like bullying. If so, contact the teacher and work together to resolve the situation.

Eat Healthy
What are the typical breakfasts, snacks, and dinners your family eats during the week? If your refrigerator and pantry have healthy foods and limited junk or processed foods, your family is more likely to eat healthy, have better nutrition, and perform better at school and work.

Make slow transitions to healthier food. For example, the next time you’re at the store, instead of buying potato or tortilla chips, buy crunchy carrots and hummus to dip them in. Small changes can help your child transition to a healthier diet over time.

Address Struggles and Developmental Delays
If your child struggles with learning in any capacity, speak with his or her teacher about being tested for special education services. These services can range from speech therapy to additional help for disorders like autism or dyslexia.

By working with the teacher to determine what struggles your child is having in school, you will find out if there is a greater issue that you and the school can address to help your child learn and succeed. If so, start the process for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that defines what services, programs, or accommodations your child will receive from the school.

For a mother’s story about her son’s experience with an IEP, click here for Part I and here for Part II.

As your child grows, you will still nurture his or her social and emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development. Your role will change, but you are still your child’s strongest advocate.

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Parent Engagement in the Early Years

November 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in the Early Years | Several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten. | A father reads with his young children.

When raising a child, it’s hard to know when parent engagement begins. With a baby, you’re doing your best to meet the baby’s needs and fit in sleep when you can. Once the baby becomes a toddler, you’re working on small things, like motor skills and reading. But when should you start actively being an engaged parent?

The answer is at the very beginning, but the shape of parent engagement changes as your child grows. Here are several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten.

Infancy and Stress
Raising a healthy and secure child starts in infancy as you hold, soothe, and interact with your baby. That nurturing helps the child develop a healthy sense of self that will allow him or her to better cope with stress when he or she gets older.

In addition to that nurturing, you can further help your baby by keeping your stress away from him or her. When you are stressed, your body produces toxins that affect your major systems. Babies and children can sense your stress as well, so keep the stress away by taking deep breaths, practicing yoga and/or meditation, and seeking therapy if necessary.

Toddlers and Vocabulary
Help your child develop his or her vocabulary by experiencing new things together.

For example, if you live in the city, take a day trip to the country. Your child will see new things and ask about them. If you see a silo on a farm, explain that it is used to store grain. Once your child seems to understand, point to the silo and ask what it is. Help your toddler continue to learn these vocabulary words by taking pictures and looking through them at home, asking him or her to name the things seen during the trip.

Early Childhood and Preschool
When your child is around three years old, you might consider sending him or her to preschool to start the formal learning process and prepare your child for kindergarten. Attending preschool can provide your child with many benefits, such as:

  • Learning concepts and skills, like colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Learning to play, share, and cooperate with others.
  • Learning to talk and listen to others, along with new words and proper grammar.

Starting Kindergarten
When entering kindergarten, it’s important that your child starts making his or her own choices. You can encourage making smart choices by giving your child healthy options. For example, ask your child if he or she wants yogurt or an apple as a snack. Does he or she want to play t-ball or basketball today? These options allow your child to eat healthy and exercise regardless of the choice, while it also empowers your child to have control over something in his or her life.

It’s not difficult to practice parent engagement. It’s as easy as nurturing your child, encouraging him or her to learn new things and meet new people, and slowly helping him or her learn to be independent.

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3 Small Acts of Kindness Your Child Can Do to Prevent Bullying

October 11, 2016

By Jessica Vician

3 Small Acts of Kindness Your Child Can Do to Prevent Bullying

What have you and your child done to stop bullying this month?

We’re midway through National Bullying Prevention Month, and while some schools have organized events to educate students on preventing and reporting bullying, not everyone has this programming. As a parent, you can challenge your child to take small actions for the rest of the month that will help him or her not only prevent bullying but also promote kindness.

STOMP Out Bullying, an organization dedicated to reducing and preventing bullying and cyberbullying, has created a list of activities, summarized below, that your child can do each week for the rest of the month to help with the bullying problem.

  1. Make friends with someone you don’t know.
    This week, encourage your child to start a conversation at school with a peer that he or she doesn’t know, or to invite that person to sit with your child at lunch. This small outreach helps your child expand his or her social circle and prevents both your child and the peer from feeling isolated and lonely.
  2. Stand up for someone.
    Next week, talk to your child about standing up for someone when they are being disrespected, made fun of, or physically bullied. It can be as simple as stepping into a conversation where a peer is being disrespected and saying, “Let’s keep it respectful here,” or telling someone to stop making fun of someone else. In physical bullying situations, advise your child on what to do—it might be safest for him or her to get an adult to interfere so that your child doesn’t get hurt.
  3. Promote positivity.
    For the final week of the month, send your child to school with colorful Post-its with positive messages, like, “You’re smart,” or “Thanks for being nice to me,” or “You make me smile.” Your child can hand them out to fellow classmates or even post them anonymously on people’s lockers. This tiny action will bring a little joy to everyone’s day.

You can also encourage your child’s school administration and/or teachers to promote the message by sending them a link to PACER’s classroom activities or organize an event in your community yourself.

Is your child’s school participating in National Bullying Prevention Month? Tell us what they’re doing in the comments below.

Tags :  emotionalbullying
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Why your teen should fail

September 13, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Why your teen should fail | A teen surfing a wave.

When we think of raising teenagers, we often think of steering them away from risks and dangerous behaviors: drugs, alcohol, unprotected sex, unsafe driving, etc. But there are some risks we should encourage our teens to take—safer risks that satisfy their thirst for adrenaline and allow them an opportunity to fail.

Failure seems like the worst thing to encourage in teenagers. They’re emotional, and failing at something can upset their self-esteem and throw them off-course with their social status. But failure also teaches them that life goes on even as they make mistakes, and most often they can course-correct and rebound from the failures.

As teenagers go through puberty, their hormonal changes spark a desire to take risks and demonstrate more dangerous behavior, as outlined in this article from Berkeley’s Greater Good.

Instead of resisting your teenager’s desire to take risks, guide him or her toward healthy opportunities for risks, successes, and failures, like these examples:

  • Playing competitive sports and learning how to win and lose
  • Learning a musical instrument and performing in front of others
  • Acting in a school play and learning the show must go on
  • Asking out the person he or she has a crush on and facing rejection or getting a date
  • Joining the diving or skiing team for a physical rush (with trained and supervised risk)

Taking risks and having the opportunity to fail builds character and helps a teenager find his or her identity. Encourage healthy risks while looking out for unhealthy and truly dangerous risks, like texting while driving and others outlined in this NPR article. It will be hard to watch your teen fail, but it’s worth the risk: the feeling when he or she succeeds is true parental pride.

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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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