It's back-to-school time! Students, parents and staff alike welcome another year with anticipation and yes, some anxiety, as school schedules resume. We at Aim for Success look forward to partnering with many schools and communities to bring hope and health to young people again this year. As parents and staff work to prepare students for their academic growth this year, we want to remind all those who love and care for students of the incredible power of the parent-school partnership.
Did you know that students who feel connected to their school and parents have better grades? Higher test scores? Stay in school longer?
Beyond academic achievement, research shows that students who feel connected are less likely to:
Have sexual intercourse
Carry a weapon or become involved in violence
Be injured from drinking and driving or not wearing seat belts
How can parents and schools work together to harness this incredible protective power? How can they help students make healthy choices that will give them freedom to reach their dreams and goals?
Care about the physical, emotional and relational health of each child. What are your goals for your children this year? To make straight A's or make the honor roll? I think most of us would agree academic success is important, but it's not the only thing that is important. Too much focus on academic performance can lead to stress and pressure that harms emotional health. And children who only work academically often leave their physical health suffering or lack positive relationships. Students perceive when adults genuinely care about their wellbeing, and this contributes to the connectedness they experience at school and home.
Commit to compassionately serving the whole child. Children's bodies are growing at warp speed on up through the pre-teen and teen years, and their brains are developing even longer than that up into their 20s. This growth brings about changes- and challenges- physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. Empathy is the key to effective connections with children- recognizing that they are in a difficult time of life and need understanding and support from the adults around them. Are you adding to the pressure in their lives- or are you offering help to stand up under it? Help them see you care about who they are, more than what they do. And let them know you're here to help.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Promoting parent-school-child connections must be a three-way constant communication stream. Setting expectations together while communicating support, and then continually tracking how the child is doing will help keep the year "on course."
Parents and teachers can help students be good communicators- giving them tools to express their questions, concerns, disappointments and successes in a helpful way. And then most importantly, offer a listening ear that values the child's communication and responds in a helpful way.
Special note to parents:
Start the year off right - on the same team as your child's teacher. This person cares deeply for your child and needs your total support. Work together to solve problems, and refrain from taking an offensive or critical stance against him or her. Your child will be better
off if you all can have a positive relationship.
The Centers for Disease Control makes this statement:
"Efforts to improve child and adolescent health have typically addressed specific health risk behaviors, such as tobacco use or violence. However, results from a growing number of studies suggest that greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors that place them at risk for adverse health and educational outcomes."
We as the adults who love and care for children sometimes get focused on getting them to NOT do bad things- i.e. the specific health risk behaviors the CDC mentions. Don't drink- don't smoke- don't get pregnant. Yet the research indicates our time and energy could be better spent on promoting the positive- what TO do- and doing so in a context of positive relationships, empathy and support.
So, let's make it a great year- joining together for our students! They will be healthier, stronger and more academically successful as we do.