The following advice is adapted and advanced from a work by Dr. Les Potter.
Parents are more familiar with their child’s teachers and administrators during the early years of education. However, over time it is common for parents to curtail active involvement, as if their support is no longer needed. Particularly at the middle school level, there is - rightly - a sense that parents should step back a bit to let the child become independent, but this must be done cautiously and gradually. Multiple studies have shown a very strong correlation between parental involvement and academic performance; a far stronger correlation than most any other indicator - including social status and income. Below are tips that will help parents create an environment that encourages academic success.
Encourage your child to focus more on what they are learning from their homework than on “getting it done”. Provide encouragement to aim high and do quality work. If work is taking too long or seems to be much too difficult, check with your child’s teacher for clarification about expectations - you may find out the instructions were misunderstood, or that there are other issues that need to be addressed!
Learn about the system that your school has in place for communicating homework expectations. Some schools utilize paper-based planners, while other utilize online tools such as a Google Calendar. Review these regularly with your child.
Show interest in your child’s studies.
Engage in regular conversations about things being learned in school. “Nothing” is not an acceptable answer! When there is an opportunity to be involved in your child’s studies, do it. The same goes for extracurricular activities; if your child has a performance at school, turn off the phone and give him/her your attention. When parents are involved at school, their child’s performance improves, but so does the performance of other children as well!
Assist with your child with developing good study habits.
Establish an assigned study area that is free of extraneous distractions, and is in plain sight of parents. In today’s education setting it might be impractical to remove the internet or computer access, but removing televisions and keeping the computer screen publicly visible may go a long way towards increasing student productivity!
Establish a minimum amount of study time, even on days when he/she may not have homework. It can be very beneficial to establish study routine, and it never hurts to review or pre-read for a subject.
Show sensitivity to your child’s feelings more than his/her grades.
Be realistic about what your child can do. If students are being challenged appropriately by their school, its unreasonable to expect a child to always earn the highest marks. Don’t expect scores a child really isn’t capable of. That expectation will only cause unnecessary frustration. If necessary, find out about the school's tutoring program and other options for additional academic assistance.
Be familiar and regular with communication.
With your child, take the time to read the school’s newsletters, student handbook, etc. This will ensure that you and your student have the same information with regards to important school-wide activities and policies.
Be proactive about communicating with teachers and administrators, and let your child know that you are doing so either by including them in the conversations, or later discussing those conversations with your child.
Find out what your child should be learning, how they are progressing, and how you can help. Be a full partner in your child's education.
Attend parent meetings, open houses, booster clubs, parent education groups, and other activities for parents.
Make attendance important.
Of course illness happens, and it’s right to keep a student home to rest and also to prevent the spread of sickness to other students. It may be tempting to take a day off for a long weekend or to extend a vacation, but it is detrimental to the progression of learning that a teacher has planned. When absences do occur, work with your child to make sure they are keeping up with whatever needs to be completed. If an assessment is missed, help your child be proactive in making-up the assessment as soon as possible.
Encourage and model involvement beyond academics.
Encourage your child to pursue interests and make friends through extracurricular activities, but don’t overload your child. It’s okay not to have something planned every day of the week, and Be certain, however, that she selects no more than a few activities so she has adequate time for schoolwork. You must help her find a balance; this will take compromise and patience.
Volunteer at school. Both your child and the school will benefit from your help. Schools solicit volunteers to help in a variety of ways: tutoring, assisting in the media center, giving speeches, helping out at activities, chaperoning, etc.
Show courtesy to those with expertise and deference to those with authority.
Sometimes you may not agree with a decision made by a teacher or administrator, or a policy of a school. Your child is watching how you respond in instances of disagreement and will emulate your behavior; if you feel it is acceptable to be rude with others when in disagreement, your child will behave similarly - including when they disagrees with you!
Be clear that you expect your child to follow school rules and policies - even if they don’t like them, just as you expect them to follow your rules even if they don’t like them. Through your words and actions, teach your child to respect people as well as property.
Hold regular family meetings.
Set aside a time when the family can sit together to talk with purpose, but without distractions. Intentional conversations to voice concerns, problem solve and celebrate accomplishments help to reduce conflict in families, provided they occur in a calm atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. Children can gain ownership in the conversation by planning a meeting on topics they are interested in.
Know your child’s friends.
In the middle school years, socialization seems all important. Unfortunately, the desire to ‘fit-in’ or ‘be cool’ often clouds a child’s judgement. You have many more years of relationship experience than your child; it’s okay to help them make wise choices about who they spend their time with. Learn who your child’s friends are and follow up if you have suspicions.
Foremost, your child needs your love and respect. To become independent, responsible, self-sufficient, and to succeed in endeavours at school and in the home, a young person needs to have the confidence that comes from knowing they are encouraged to try their hardest, but that they are loved when they don’t succeed. Meet your child’s needs consistently, be clear, firm, and compassionate, and you may find that your child’s middle school years are a great experience for you both!