Children can achieve well at school when their family and friends take an interest in their school and schoolwork. Getting involved in your child’s education, even in the simplest way, shows that you care about their school life. Often, the more supported a child feels at home, the more effectively she or he will learn at school. Whatever your lifestyle, or family situation, it is never too soon (or too late) to start helping a child develop a positive attitude towards learning.
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Helping your child get the best out of school
Family Lives appreciates that time can be a factor in busy families but there are ways of being involved in your child's education without feeling overwhelmed. If you are a non-resident parent, it is equally as important to be involved in your child's learning too. This can give your child far greater goals and inspire them to try their best where they can.
Try to give encouragement and show appreciation of your child’s achievements, whether great or small, as this can help boost their confidence. Teach them basic organisation and time management skills so they are not overwhelmed with projects or homework. Be realistic and avoid putting your child under pressure by having over-high expectations. Let your child develop at their own pace, but if you do have concerns, please speak to their teacher.
Try to give feedback rather than criticism, e.g. saying ‘that didn’t seem to work’ rather than ‘you got it wrong’. This helps them think about where they went wrong and how they can improve in future, rather than just feeling like a failure.
You might find contacting the school or talking to your child’s teachers difficult, or think they will not have time for you. But finding out more about their school life and what they are learning shows your child how much you care about their education. And getting to know the school and the teachers is the best way of finding out more.
Tips to help you keep up with what’s happening at the school
- Make sure your child gives you any letters that are sent home
- Look out for notices and posters for parents
- If you can, check the school website or visit their social media page
- Try to make it to the fun events, like school fairs, and to parents’ evenings
- If you are worried about anything, go and talk to a teacher. They will want to help
Out of school support
Often parents like to introduce a variety of interests in and out of school too so children have the opportunity to explore other interests that they enjoy. Learn together, do things together, visit interesting places, talk about things you’ve seen on television and encourage your child to ask questions. Support their reading development by having books, magazines and newspapers in the home and let your child see you and other family members reading them.
When a child comes home from school, they may be tired so try not to fire too many questions of your child as soon as they walk through the door. They may be tired or hungry and not feel like talking. Be available to listen later if they want to talk.
Education is more than just maths, English and science. your child’s talents lie in sport, art, music, drama, computers, or anything else, you can always help them aim high by boosting their confidence:
- Encourage them to join after-school clubs or activities
- Tell your child how proud you are when they do well
- Let them hear you praising them to other people
- Talk together about their future and the kind of job they think they would enjoy
- Ask them to help you with things they are good at
- Help your child to find someone to look up to; a relative, friend or celebrity
Struggling at school
If your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), it is even more important to be involved so you can understand what support your child is receiving at school and whether he or she is on target. You can speak to their class teacher or the SENCO if your school has one. You may hear terms that are unfamiliar and if this is the case, you can always speak to the school or your Local Education Authority about what these mean. Your child may have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) which is reviewed on a quarterly basis. This will indicate what support your child needs and how this is being met by the school. These plans should be set with your involvement in a meeting with the teacher and SENCO. If your child does need extra help, find out from the school how he or she can be supported at home. This may be something as simple as allowing them to draw more often to help with fine motor skills, etc.
Helping your child make new friends
If your child is worried about making new friends or is having trouble with an existing group of friends, this can add to any existing anxieties they may have around school or may even be the main cause of their concerns. For more tips, see our video on making new friends.
School and parents
Young people live and learn in two worlds – home and school. The way the two connect and communicate can make an enormous difference to how children learn to manage in both places. If teachers, parents and young people all trust, listen and talk to each other, the final goal of helping children learn and develop to their best ability is most likely to be achieved. You have a right to expect and ask for help.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.
Watch our video on working with your child's teacher