Parents often ask what they can do to support their children’s education. Elementary school parents can feel confident to assist with homework assignments and welcome to volunteer in the classroom. Yet, as students mature, mom and dad’s presence on campus at middle school and high school can be an embarrassment to teens, while mom and dad wonder, “How many more times should I intervene with a teacher, and when do I let my kid be more responsible?” Parents may also be concerned that their “intervention” will disadvantage to their student in the teacher’s view. Then, when subject matter is more complex, parents may feel their own knowledge is limited to help with homework. The media attention to decreasing college admissions rates alongside simultaneous increases in college tuition that are greater than inflation can add worries to parents, who’re simply seeking to best guide their student to future success.
So, what can parents do to assist their children? In my experience, educational success is not separate from the rest of a kid’s life. What parents do to build two-way communication and an atmosphere of candidness will develop student’s confidence to admit their academic struggles and work alongside their parents to find resolutions, which can extend to students willingness to create respectful, working relationships with teachers and other adult mentors.
Advising families for the past 15 years, I can also recommend, “Don’t try not to worry.” Acknowledging concerns is the first step to understanding the issue to be resolved. The more parents come to me with any concern, the more we can work together to define the issue, if there is one, and see how to best address it, so the student stays successful.
Be consistent. Supporting students sometimes looks like nagging and/or feeling like parents are carrying more of the weight, as well as celebrating the achievements. Knowing that one can make mistakes, have those pointed out in a constructive way and then rolling up the sleeves to address the mistake together as parent and child will help students value their intrinsic talents, which can foster academic success.
Academic success will look differently for each student. Applying this understanding may require courage on the parents’ part if a revision of their expectations is needed and a confidence for the student to walk to “the beat of their own drummer.”