It’s back-to-school time! For some that brings a big “Ya-hoo!,” and for others perhaps a few “Boo-hoo’s.” For all, this time of year brings a stack of school supplies, a return to routine and higher levels of activity and stress.
Aside from the obvious academic growth that happens when they are in school, students also grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. And in that growth, the choices they make regarding their health have a strong impact on their success. Just as healthier students do better in school, students who are in school tend to make better, healthier choices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) promotes “school connectedness” as an important protective factor. School connectedness is defined as:
The belief held by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals.
The CDC states “research has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risk factors, including:
Early sexual initiation
Other drug use
And they are more likely to have better academic achievement, including higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and stay in school longer.”
They are less likely to be injured from drinking and driving or not wearing seat belts, and less likely to have emotional problems, suffer from eating disorders, or experience suicidal thoughts or attempts.
School connectedness happens best when strong relationships are fostered between:
Adults in all of these sectors should strive to improve communication, trust, and caring, while providing an atmosphere of strong support for each student, academically and personally. Students need guidance in decision-making and goal-setting in the classroom and at home. Schools can create a safe, positive environment where students feel secure to focus on learning. Parents can seek opportunities to be involved at the school.
One of the most effective ways to grow school connectedness is to get students involved. Give them a voice in the policies and plans for the school. Give them opportunities to serve and take leadership and ownership in the atmosphere of the school. Here are some ideas:
Student Art Gallery
Student-led Performing Arts and Sports Groups
Volunteer groups to help with school clean-up
School pep rally- theme days- special refreshments
T-Shirt Design Contest
When a student feels personally and academically valued at school, they are more likely to avoid risky behaviors and make healthy choices. So as this new school year kicks off, let’s work together- school/ family/ community- to provide a strong support system for students that will help them grow into healthy individuals – academically, physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.