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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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The key to academic success? More play!

September 27, 2016

By Jessica Vician

The key to academic success? More play! | As higher education and strong academic achievement become more important for our children, so does the pressure to start teaching as soon as possible. But how should we be teaching our young children in daycare or preschool? | Toddlers play on a playground.

As higher education and strong academic achievement become more important for our children, so does the pressure to start teaching as soon as possible. But how should we be teaching our young children in daycare or preschool?

Researchers have conducted several studies regarding the effects of traditional academic learning and play-based learning on young children and have found that more fun can equal more academic success in the short and long term.

For example, one study suggested that children who go to preschools that take a traditional academic approach—children sitting in desks, completing worksheets, and learning specific rules on how to play—learn to read and write later than kids who attend play-centric daycares and preschools. The play-centric approach means letting the children engage in imaginative play, figuring out how to play with toys rather than being told how to play with them, and less formal instruction.

So what does this mean for parents? For one, it means that you can relax about putting your child in a hyper-academic daycare or preschool. Look for options that encourage both independent and group play so that your child learns social skills and expands his or her imagination. Those skills will not only help your child succeed socially and creatively, but research suggests it may also spark a greater thirst for knowledge.

Second, put away the high-tech toys and go back to your roots with Lincoln Logs, building blocks, basic Legos, and books. Let your child lead the way as you play with these toys together. See what his or her imagination can build with the blocks, and talk to your child about what he or she is building. Discuss the books you read together by asking questions about the story or characters after every few pages.

These techniques encourage your child to develop critical thinking skills and teach him or her to create, rationalize, and develop a desire to learn, which will help your child succeed in school and in life.

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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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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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