(Inside: Do you want to help your kid thrive in school? These four questions will help your child find success and enjoy his or her educational journey.)
I scanned the array of graduation photos spread out in front of me. Geez, it’s been years since I’ve taught these amazing kiddos in high school.
I picked up a picture of a former high school senior remembering how – even though life always seemed to throw him curveballs that he didn’t always handle the best – he was determined to get into college and be the first in his family to graduate from higher education. Then, there was the sweet girl, she beamed in her dress with brunette curls outlining her face. That girl always had drama, so much typical-high-school-girl drama…I wondered if she’d reached her dream of starting a daycare. Then, I scanned the photo of the heavy-set, no-nonsense face of the athlete – that kid had goals. College team. Maybe, the Olympics. His focus was always on doing what needed to be done to be the best at his sport, including staying after school and studying with me when he needed to keep his GPA up.
Each kid in the dozens of pictures was different…from race to social-economic backgrounds to family dynamics to interests and personalities. But, all of them ended their high school career with good memories, hope for the future, and a drive to move forward.
What commonality did these diverse scholars share that helped them thrive? Like a tidal wave unexpectantly crashing against the shore, all of a sudden, I wanted to figure this out. Needed to figure this out.
Not as a teacher, but as a parent.
Because I want my kids – my three very different sons – to be beaming hope and determination in their high school graduation pictures. What can I do now in their elementary/middle school years to get them there?
So, I begin to untangle my memories, to evaluate each student and connect the dots of what qualities strung these diverse thriving individuals together. In my reflection, I found four qualities/actions these students shared.
Each student had a connection with and in the school. Each had a friend who had their back, classes they liked to attend, school activities they enjoyed and/or school staff who made them feel important. There was at least one place they belonged or person they connected with.
Okay, maybe I’m amping here because I remember none of the students as having all their stuff together at all times. (And I’m pretty sure I excessively told one to “PUT YOUR PHONE IN YOUR BACKPACK AND SET THE BACKPACK BY MY DESK” a generous amount of times. *In his defense, he always did.*) But in school, theses former students learned to get assignments in, study for tests, kill projects… Despite the bumps, they figured it out.
Okay, sometimes this happened by default. (Maybe I shouldn’t gossip because that person that I do actually like but I verbally shredded just blocked me from snapchat. Lesson learned.) Then sometimes it happened through students pausing to reflect, talking to a teacher, or unpacking thoughts with a friend. Every new school year, I watched these former high school seniors grow mentally through their educational journey and metamorphose from kid to young adult.
The students reached out when they needed help. All our inner beings pulse we’re not supposed to do life alone…ask for help. From a teacher, counselor, coach…reach out. These students learned to listen to that wisdom.
As parents, we can grow these qualities in our kids. Building on our foundation of love and trust we have with our kids, we can ask these questions at the beginning and throughout the school year to find out where our kids are and how we can support them.
Every mom wants her child to thrive in school. Ask these four simple questions to help them get there. #momlife #raisingkids #schoolagekids #school Click To Tweet
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Or, who did you sit by at lunch? Was there someone you knew in your class(es)? It’s life-giving that our kids are connecting with someone in the school and we want to know where our young scholars are in this department.
Dr. Paul Schwartz says: “Friendships contribute significantly to the development of social skills, such as being sensitive to another’s viewpoints, learning the rules of conversation, and age-appropriate behaviors,” He continues: “More than half the children referred for emotional behavioral problems have no friends or find difficulty interacting with peers.”
If friendships are hard for your child, it is okay. Just like anything else, some kids need to learn how to be a good friend. Here are some ideas on how to help your child:
Also, we read Growing Friendships as a family and there are great ideas to help kids understand the ins-and-outs of friendships. Here are more resources:
|Related Article: Help your kids learn to grow friendships by reading fictional books about good friends. Help them not just know what it’s like to be a good friend, but feel it through books. Get a list of books to help with this here.|
This is a life skill and it is learned and honed and perfected in school. Ask your kid how they are planning to stay on top of assignments and expectations.
If they need it, help them set up a plan:
Reflection and conversation can help our students mature. What at school didn’t work out and how did it make them feel? How can they improve the next time? What relationships are hard? What do they need to let go of and what do they need to try and change? How can we all open the doors of communication with our kids?
In our individualized culture, we have to teach our kids to hear that inner voice that cries out for help. The schools are staffed with resources, some you might not even know about. (At the public high school I teach at we have an on-site social working helping families find housing, school psychologist meeting regularly with students, and teachers/ administration always willing to hand out kindness and guidance.) Let’s encourage our kids to reach for the community.
Then, once parents have discussed these four questions with our kids, we can step back and give our kids space. We let them grow, let them learn, and let them wrestle with things. Our job isn’t to shield them from all pain and responsibility. Instead, it’s to guide them to grow through the bumps in their journeys. Then when our kids reach the end of their senior year, we frame that senior picture, and we smile too…because we helped them get there. Our intentional questions helped us raise happy, hopeful, ready-to-move-forward human beings.
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.