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Parent Resources

School: Making the Most of It

This fact sheet is part of the Teen Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers series.

Kathleen A. Olson, Extension Educator — Family Relations

Revised 2011. Reviewed February 2017 by author.

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Almost a third of your child’s life is spent in school. Other than family, school is the most important influence on your child’s life. And one of the most powerful impacts on teens’ school performance is the connection they feel to their school. Feeling connected means that students have a sense of belonging and feel close to people, including teachers. Attachment to school is associated with reduced alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use; lower rates of sexual activity; fewer thoughts about or attempts at suicide; and lower levels of violent behavior.

Parents Make a Difference

Research shows children do better in school and have more positive attitudes about it when their parents are involved in school life. Many parents become less involved with school activities as their children move on to high school, yet teenagers benefit when their parents show interest. There are many ways for you to get involved.

Expect Success

When parents set high expectations for their children’s school performances, teens are more likely to meet those expectations. When teens work toward their “personal best,” which does not mean “perfection,” they are less likely to become depressed or involved in harmful violent, sexual, or drug-related behaviors. Teens whose parents expect them to make school a priority are much more likely to do well in school. Students whose parents expect them to attend college are more likely to do so.

Communicate

Build a partnership with teachers so your teen sees you working with teachers, not against them.

Student Activities

Students become connected and committed to school by taking part in extracurricular activities and sports. Many young people find they have talents in areas outside of the classroom and need support to develop them. Encourage your child to join school activities. Ask your teen’s teachers to encourage involvement. If your teen is already involved, show your support by attending school events.

Volunteer in the School

School staff can always use an extra hand. Here are some opportunities to volunteer your time.

Involve Both Parents

Research shows that youth do better when both parents, if possible, are involved in school. In fact, young people are more likely to earn “A’s,” participate in extracurricular activities, and enjoy school if their fathers participate in their school life.

Encourage Involvement in Leadership Opportunities

Many schools offer programs for older students to serve as tutors or mentors to younger children. Being a “big buddy” to an elementary student may help a teen feel valued.

What Parents Can Do

Sources

Bempechat, J. (2000). Getting our kids back on track: Educating children for the future. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Christenson, S.L. (2004). The family-school partnership: An opportunity to promote the learning competence of all students. School Psychology Review, 33(1), 83-104.

Christenson, S. L., & Sheridan, S. M. (2001). School and families: Creating essential connections for learning. New York: Guilford Press.

Van den Beck, J. (2004). Television viewing, computer game playing, and internet use and self-reported time to bed and time out of bed in secondary-school children. SLEEP, 27(1), 101-104.

Related Resources

School Success: Families — Get tips for creating a supportive learning environment at home; helping your children transition into, between, and out of school; and strengthening your own relationships with your children to help them succeed in school.

Check & Connect School Engagement ProgramCheck & Connect is a comprehensive intervention designed to enhance student engagement at school and with learning for marginalized, disengaged students in grades K-12, through relationship building, problem solving and capacity building, and persistence.

National Dropout Prevention Center/Network — There is no one single answer, or silver bullet, to keeping students in school. The National Dropout Prevention Center has developed 15 effective strategies that help combat the dropout rate. Family involvement with the school and their children is vital.

NEA Parents' Resources — National Education Association — Adults have a lot of responsibilities in life, and one of the most important is supporting the education and growth of children. The resources on this website are provided to help ensure your child receives the best possible education.

National PTA: For Families — National PTA offers a variety of resources to assist families in their children's education. There are Parent's Guides for students in grades K-12, programs meant to strengthen diversity in schools and communities, health and safety initiatives, and ways to serve and provide a valuable education to children with special needs.

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