Children have two main educators in their lives – their teachers and their parents. Once a child enters school, the parent’s job as educator is far from over and is not passed on to the school teacher.
Parents are their child’s first and foremost teacher – their guide – they are a major influence in their children’s lives, so it is vital for them to play an active role in the development of their abilities.
Research has shown that parental involvement is important in bringing out the best in children. But what is parental involvement? Though there is no universal definition, the general consensus is that parental involvement comes in the form of home support and participation in their children’s school lives.
A family’s home life plays an important role in a child’s learning process and personal development – this is especially so in their early years. Though schools provide the basic education a child needs for his or her future, parents need to ensure that their child is able to cope at school and with assignments.
Some parents may think that as long as their child attends school and achieves good grades, there’s nothing to worry about – that their child is coping well and no additional parental guidance or support is necessary. Grades may tell you how your child is managing with school work, but grades don’t say much about the other aspects of school life.
Regardless of how well a child is doing at school, all children need support and encouragement and they especially need this from their parents. Home support is giving a child the attention and assistance he or she needs at home to encourage their skills and confidence. Studies have shown that high parental interest in their children’s school work is linked to better examination results.
Home support does not only mean helping with homework – though it is one of the first steps you can take as a parent to become involved. Reinforcing what was learnt in school helps your child’s progression, but don’t put too much pressure on your child.
Try understanding their strengths and weaknesses and assist their learning by doing an activity together in a way that’s both engaging and fun – for example, if your child is struggling with reading, try reading about something they’re interested in together; or if your child loves to draw, try doing the activity together. Remember to encourage your child’s interests and strengths but don’t set them unrealistic goals.
Knowing your child’s school curriculum and showing an interest in what they’re learning also provides confidence, support and security. Try asking your child about what they learnt in class – be interested and find out if your child is enjoying what is being taught. If your child isn’t enjoying a subject try to understand why.
Find a way to motivate your child, be it through inspirational stories or offering words of advice as to why it is important to learn. Don’t nag your child about his or her faults as this only causes them to feel discouraged. Offer your child words of encouragement, especially when they have done something good – children love it.
Think about when you were a child and were offered words of encouragement (or even gold stars and smiley faces) for good work. Didn’t it make you feel good inside? Rewarding a child for good work and offering positive support develops good self-esteem and encourages children to excel.
Some parents may refrain from letting their child know how proud they are for their accomplishments in fear that they will become overconfident. Though there is some truth in this, overconfidence (and false confidence) in children stems from being showered with too much praise for little or no reason at all.
Be clear about why you are rewarding your child and tell them what they have done to receive it.
Structuring a daily routine that works for both you and your child is another way you can provide home support. Children yearn for comfort, security and stability. As much as children may whine about not wanting a schedule, having a daily routine adds structure and security to their lives.
Having a schedule for homework, mealtimes and playtime helps them develop a sense of responsibility and allows them to feel more confident knowing what is expected of them. Also, don’t forget that your child looks up to you. Be a role model and practise what you preach.
PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT IN SCHOOL
Besides the support that parents can offer at home, parents are encouraged to play a bigger part in their children’s school lives and there are many opportunities for them to get involved. Studies have shown that children whose parents play a more active role in their school life grow to be more confident and secure.
It also reinforces the idea that home and school are connected and both an integral part of the family life. Besides volunteering at activities and events, parents can get involved through the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).
Comprised of parents, teachers and staff, many schools have PTAs which parents can join. These associations organise school activities, events and meet to discuss important school matters. The parents involved represent not only the voice of the other parents but the voice of the students as well.
Being part of the PTA provides your child with assurance in knowing that they are being represented. Being part of the PTA also gives you the opportunity to provide input into school policies that may affect your child’s education.
Though attending PTA meetings may not be possible for all parents due to busy schedules and tight time constraints, it is a good idea to try attending a PTA meeting once in a while so that you are aware of what is happening in the school.
Communicating with the school teacher is vital to understanding your child and what type of support is needed at home. As children spend a lot of their time in school, establishing a relationship with their teacher can provide you with great insights into your child’s personality.
By communicating with your child’s teacher you will be able to have a better understanding of what your child needs and how you may be able to provide it. If your child is having a problem, teachers are trained to pick up on it and can provide useful information as to how to guide your child.
Parents-Teachers day provides a great opportunity to discuss your child’s progress and school life. However, that being said, you do not need to wait for that day to have a casual chat – you can always drop their teachers an email to schedule a meeting or to ask them questions. The most important thing is to have an open channel for communication.
As parents play a very important role in their child’s upbringing, it is essential that they also play a part in their school life. Studies have shown that children whose parents are more involved in their school lives tend to flourish and do better in school.
Children yearn for their parents to be a part of their lives and need the comfort and security that only they can provide. Home support and parental involvement are not only key factors in bringing out the best in children, but they also help to strengthen the parent-child bond.